Most free traders are generally supportive of the Trans-Pacific Partnership currently in the final phases of negotiation, and think Congress should follow its practice over the last few decades of enacting legislation — now called “trade promotion authority” — committing itself to giving that deal and other trade deals an up-or-down vote. Senator Paul has expressed his views on both issues over the years.
September 20, 2011: Senator Paul votes against a McConnell amendment to provide trade promotion authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade deals.
October 13, 2011: Senator Paul joins Senators McCain and Portman, among others, in introducing the Jobs Through Growth Act, which includes the McConnell amendment.
October 23, 2014: Senator Paul gives a speech including this line: “Instead of just talking about a so-called ‘pivot to Asia,’ the Obama administration should prioritize negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership by year’s end. Free trade and technology should be the greatest carrot of our statecraft.”
“I’ve told leadership I’m a ‘no’ vote” on trade promotion authority, Paul said. “I’m hesitant to give blanket authority on stuff we haven’t seen. I’m not saying there wouldn’t be a time I could be for it, if I’d seen the trade agreement, and it’s fine,” Paul said.
“I still might vote for the trade agreement, but I hate giving up power. We give up so much power from Congress to the presidency, and with them being so secretive on the treaty, it just concerns me what’s in the treaty,” he said.
(Update: On Monday night, Matthew McAlvanah, spokesman for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, issued the following statement:
“The text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations has been available for members of Congress to read since 2012 at their request. Earlier this year, the administration took the additional step of placing copies of the text in the Capitol building for members of Congress to review at their convenience.
“Members of Congress can bring staffs and take notes when they review the document. A number of Senators have chosen to read the text. . .”)
So he has been against TPA, for TPA, strongly for TPP, and against TPA because it enables the TPP.
Regarding Paul’s secrecy argument, it’s worth noting that TPA will last into the next administration and cover future trade deals negotiated during its life. A vote for it is, and always has been, a commitment to an up-or-down vote on trade deals that nobody has yet seen.