Liaison to a Kingdom: Guidance through the Passage of an FTA
A North African nation needed a partner to help ensure the development and passage of a free trade agreement with the United States.
Labor unions and many members were strongly opposed to a free trade agreement with this kingdom nation — and an FTA with a close US ally was already in play. Most political observers believed that only one agreement would clear the House before adjournment. The key was to convince Republican leadership in House to bring the client’s FTA to the floor right behind the other country’s legislation – and we had to secure sufficient free trade Democratic votes so passage could be characterized as bipartisan.
To ensure success, TLG followed a methodical approach:
- Cultivate a champion in the leadership. TLG identified and cultivated a relationship with a Member and his staff, as well as other key staff members in the Senate and House. Through this effort, our client gained a strong champion on the Hill.
- Have point men (or women) in the rank and file membership. A caucus for the effort was developed, headed by two Members. Aside from serving as a point of coordination with the Administration, the leadership and Members, these key allies could also be relied on for rapid responses to problems and questions.
- Build a coalition. TLG actively engaged the Citizens Network for Foreign Affairs, which was very helpful in building support in the agricultural sector; major Jewish groups; the AFL-CIO; and a business coalition that was organized by the NFTC and BCIU.
- Reach out to likely opponents in Congress. TLG arranged for the Moroccan ambassador to meet with a number of Members whose support for the FTA was doubtful at best. This meeting led to the sharing of advice and concerns, and gave these decision-makers an opportunity to be appropriately consulted.
TLG also assisted the Embassy in its efforts to arrange seven Congressional staff trips to the kingdom in a span of four years. About 70 key Congressional staff members participated in these week-long introductions to the country and its people, culture, and current political, security, and economic issues.
We also worked closely with the leadership in both houses of Congress to wedge the ratification votes for the FTA into a very difficult and tight legislative calendar, while activating a “rapid response” capability that defused controversies that had the potential to derail the entire ratification process.
Counter to political odds makers, the House adopted both our client’s FTA and the ally’s FTA in a timely manner.