TPP Negotiators Report Additional Progress as Lawmakers Intensify Calls for Significant Market Access for Imported Footwear
According to a Nov. 25 press release by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, chief negotiators for the 12 countries negotiating a Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement reported “significant progress” after six days of intensive meetings in Salt Lake City, Utah. The USTR notes that negotiators resolved a number of outstanding issues in the areas of intellectual property rights, cross-border trade in services, temporary entry, environment, market access, state-owned enterprises, investment, financial services, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, government procurement, labor, e-commerce, legal issues, technical barriers to trade, and rules of origin. The progress achieved at the Salt Lake City meeting has reportedly “significantly narrowed” the number of issues that the TPP ministers will have to directly address at their Dec. 7-9 meeting in Singapore. Negotiators are expected to remain engaged in the coming days “to further set the stage for a productive meeting” in December.
Meanwhile, a growing group of U.S. lawmakers is pushing for enhanced market access for footwear imports under the TPP. U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman has received at least three separate letters from nearly 50 House and Senate legislators over the past two weeks calling for the elimination of high import duties on footwear from Vietnam and other TPP partners. One of the letters contends that high duties and outdated tariffs represent a “hidden” tax on U.S. consumers, creating a “disruptive burden on working families’ economic strength.”
Another letter observes that if Vietnam were able to gain a tariff advantage over China, which currently supplies about 85 percent of all footwear consumed in the United States, “it could cut significantly into China’s overwhelming U.S. market share.” About eight percent of all footwear imported into the United States originates in Vietnam and that footwear currently faces some of the highest duties in the U.S. tariff schedule. That same letter states that significant tariff benefits for footwear under the TPP are likely to result in expanded market access for a range of U.S. agricultural and manufacturing products in Vietnam, including soybeans, beef, pork, cotton, industrial machinery, semiconductors, telecommunications equipment and automobiles.