Legislative Update: MTB Poised to Advance, TPA on the Horizon
Legislative Update: MTB Poised to Advance, TPA on the Horizon
Ahead of a two-week Easter recess Congress is beginning to see some forward momentum on various trade issues. A miscellaneous trade bill could be assembled in the coming weeks and lawmakers have started to discuss in more detail the Obama administration’s trade liberalization initiatives for this year.
MTB. March 28 is the deadline for submitting disclosure forms for bills that were introduced in the 112th Congress to be included in the 113th Congress miscellaneous trade bill process. The House Ways and Means Committee has said that individual bills will not have to be reintroduced and that no new bills are being accepted at this time. On March 18 a number of businesses wrote to House and Senate leaders urging them to “work in a bipartisan and bicameral manner to ensure expeditious passage of the MTB” because the Dec. 31 expiration of the last such bill has increased import duties on over 600 products, “adding to the 20 percent cost differential that U.S. manufacturers already face.”
European Union FTA. The White House formally notified Congress this week of its intent to launch negotiations, no earlier than late June, on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union. Lawmakers have made clear that there are several objectives they want U.S. negotiators to pursue in these talks, and it can reasonably be expected that the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees will hold hearings to communicate those objectives in the relatively near future.
Trade Promotion Authority. The last congressional grant of TPA (also known as fast track), which allows the president to submit trade agreements to Congress for a straight up-or-down vote, expired in 2007. Though some lawmakers have called for a reinstatement of this authority since that time, it remains a divisive issue and until recently there has been little practical reason to pursue it. Now, however, with the U.S. aiming to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations by the end of this year and about to embark on the TTIP talks, the prospects for legislative action on TPA are looking up. Both Republicans and Democrats are urging the White House to be more actively engaged on this issue, and acting U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis said last week that the administration is “ready to begin our work with you on TPA.”
Currency. A bipartisan bill introduced in the House last week seeks again to address the practice of currency manipulation by foreign countries, specifically in the context of countervailing duty investigations of imported goods. Previous versions of such legislation have been targeted primarily at China based on the argument that Beijing has manipulated the value of its currency, resulting in a growing U.S. trade deficit with China that in turn has led to a decline in domestic employment. However, many economists have rejected that link and in the meantime the U.S. economy has slowly improved and the alleged undervaluation of the yuan has steadily decreased, yielding a political environment perhaps less favorable for congressional action than has been the case in previous years.
It thus appears that supporters of this year’s Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act are taking a broader approach, pointing out that in addition to China there are other countries, including some with which the U.S. is or may soon be engaged in trade liberalization negotiations, that have been guilty of currency manipulation themselves (Japan) or have similar concerns about others engaging in this practice (the EU). An Inside US Trade article notes that currency issues have not heretofore been a major concern for the U.S. in these negotiations but that Acting USTR Demetrios Marantis told a March 19 Senate Finance Committee hearing that USTR is “giving careful consideration to the potential benefits and the potential risks of addressing currency as ... one of our trade negotiating objectives in ongoing negotiations.”
Other. Following is a list of additional trade-related legislation that has been introduced recently. The texts of these bills are or will shortly be available on the Library of Congress Web site (http://thomas.loc.gov/).
S. 523 – to require that the federal government procure from the private sector the goods and services necessary for the operations and management of certain government agencies (introduced March 12 by Sen. Thune and referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs)
H.R. 1063 – to require the Department of the Interior to conduct an assessment of the United States’ capability to meet its current and future demands for the minerals critical to U.S. manufacturing and agricultural competitiveness and economic and national security in a time of expanding resource nationalism (introduced March 12 by Rep. Lamborn and referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources)
H.R. 1073 – to provide for protection of maritime navigation and prevention of nuclear terrorism (introduced March 12 by Rep. Sensenbrenner and referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary)
H.R. 1085 – to extend to 2025 the production certificate program that allows refunds of duties on certain articles produced in U.S. insular possessions (introduced March 12 by Rep. Christensen and referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means)
H.R. 1086/S. 561 – to provide for the taxation of income of controlled foreign corporations attributable to imported property (introduced March 12 by Rep. Cicilline and referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means; introduced March 14 by Sen. Whitehouse and referred to the Senate Committee on Finance)
H.R. 1094 – to prohibit the sale or transport of equines and equine parts in interstate or foreign commerce for human consumption (introduced March 12 by Rep. Meehan and referred to the House committees on Energy and Commerce and Agriculture)
S. 544/H.R. 1127 – to require the president to develop a comprehensive national manufacturing strategy (introduced March 13 by Sen. Harkin and Rep. Braley and referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce)
H.R. 1108 – to provide for alternative financing arrangements for the provision of certain services and the construction and maintenance of infrastructure at land border ports of entry (introduced March 13 by Rep. Cuellar and referred to the House committees on Ways and Means, Transportation and Infrastructure, and the Judiciary)
H.R. 1189 – to amend the Natural Gas Act with respect to the exportation of natural gas (introduced March 14 by Rep. Markey and referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce)
H.R. 1276 – to clarify that countervailing duties may be imposed to address subsidies relating to a fundamentally undervalued currency of any foreign country (introduced March 20 by Rep. Levin and referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means)
H.R. 1298 – to permit the export of apples to Canada in bulk bins without certification by the Department of Agriculture (introduced May 20 by Rep. Owens and referred to the House Committee on Agriculture)