There was a moment when the Group of 8 hoped to emerge from its Northern Ireland meetings with plans to move forward on a transatlantic trade agreement. That did not happen this week, unfortunately, a deal opening markets certain to spur economic growth. Still, progress has been made, complementing the more advanced effort to do the same in the Pacific region.
What would bring a sure jolt of momentum would be Congress returning so-called trade promotion authority to the White House. Presidents of both parties long have had the authority, allowing them to negotiate a trade agreement within guidelines, then submit the deal to lawmakers for an up-or-down vote.
The most recent grant of the authority expired six years ago, the concept a casualty of the crossfire concerning trade policy, too many lawmakers suggesting shortsightedly that such agreements expanding trade work against American interests.
If nothing else, the authority is practical. Imagine all of Congress negotiating an agreement. Or legislators in another countries. More, there is a tradition of bipartisanship in granting the authority, for instance, Maria Cantwell of Washington and Rob Portman of Ohio (a former U.S. trade representative) making the case last week in a Roll Call commentary. This shouldn’t be hard if the priorities are boosting the economy and showing that Washington can get something done.