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Legislative Update: TPA on Tap, MTB Part of Trade Package

Monday, April 22, 2013
By Shawn McCausland
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

As lawmakers return from a two-week break, industry supporters are trying to kick-start a discussion on trade promotion authority to ensure that ongoing and pending trade agreements don’t get bogged down in Congress once negotiations are concluded. Still on the radar is the miscellaneous trade bill, which was mentioned as part of a package of bills House Democrats want passed to bolster the U.S. economy and domestic manufacturing in particular.

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. However, with several negotiations underway or set to begin in the near future, the White House, Congress and the trade community are preparing to advance TPA legislation this year.

The National Foreign Trade Council released earlier this month a draft TPA bill intended to be a starting point for debate on this issue. According to an NFTC press release, the fundamental negotiating objectives cited in the draft bill have been updated and now include the following.

- ensuring that regulations in the U.S. and abroad are coherent, science-based and arrived at transparently

- enhancing the protection of intellectual property rights by ensuring that U.S. standards of protection and enforcement are incorporated in new trade agreements

- ensuring that U.S. companies have full access to global supply and distribution chains

- modernizing rules, standards and practices governing the flow of data and information across borders

- harmonizing customs and other border measures to facilitate trade

- ensuring high levels of environmental protection and respect for fundamental labor rights

- strengthening rules against forced localization through practices and laws that force companies to source goods and services or transfer technology as a condition of doing business

- strengthening World Trade Organization rules to prevent market-distorting export restrictions

- promoting transparency and non-discrimination in government procurement systems

- improving health outcomes by creating competitive opportunities for a full range of U.S. products (innovative and generic) and services

- focusing bilateral negotiations on countries that would provide the greatest economic benefit to the U.S.

- encouraging the harmonization of the rules in various bilateral and regional agreements

The NFTC draft also includes provisions to provide permanent authority for fast track approval of changes to existing agreements made solely for purposes of harmonization, establish an Office of Trade Analysis within the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, create a process for petitioning USTR for the removal or modification of U.S. non-tariff barriers, and overturn the ban on lobbyists serving on federal advisory committees.

 “Make It In America” Plan. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., announced April 9 an updated “Make It In America” plan, a domestic manufacturing promotion initiative that calls for lawmakers to approve legislation to take the following steps.

- eliminate import duties on certain products not produced in the U.S., particularly raw materials and intermediate inputs used by U.S. manufacturers (the MTB)

- establish new procedures for investigating claims that foreign manufacturers are evading antidumping and countervailing duty orders (H.R. 1440, the Enforcing Orders and Reducing Customs Evasion Act)

- create a public-private partnership to provide specialized training to U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents to prevent mislabeled or transshipped items from entering the U.S. (H.R. 1322, the Customs Training Enhancement Act)

- create a competitive grant program to fund research and innovation and promote increased textile exports (H.R. 937, the American Textile Technology Innovation and Research for Exportation Act)

- hold accountable countries that create an unfair trade advantage by manipulating their currency (H.R. 1276, the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act)

- strengthen existing Buy America requirements for investments in highway, bridge, public transit, rail and aviation infrastructure and equipment to ensure that all of the steel, iron and manufactured goods used in these projects are produced in the U.S. (H.R. 949, the Invest in American Jobs Act of 2013)

- develop a plan to assess the current national freight transportation system, designate priority freight corridors and gateways, and create a proposed investment plan to develop those priorities (H.R. 974, the Multimodal Opportunities Via Enhanced Freight Act of 2013)

- establish a Clean Energy Technology Manufacturing and Export Assistance Fund administered through the International Trade Administration (H.R. 400, Clean Energy Technology Manufacturing and Export Assistance Act of 2013)

- increase coordination among federal export promotion programs and direct U.S. ambassadors overseas to develop country-specific plans to boost exports (H.R. 1409, the Export Promotion Reform Act)

IPR. Legislation introduced by Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, would create a chief innovation and intellectual property negotiator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative “to help guarantee strong IP standards are upheld and enforced with global trading partners.” The Innovation Through Trade Act (S. 660) would empower this official to conduct trade negotiations and enforce trade agreements relating to U.S. intellectual property and take appropriate actions to address acts, policies and practices of foreign governments that have a significant adverse impact on the value of U.S. innovation. He/she would also provide input for a new statutory report to the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees on actions undertaken by USTR to advance U.S. innovation and intellectual property rights interests and enforcement actions taken to protect those interests.

Chemical Safety. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., has reintroduced the Safe Chemicals Act (S. 696) in the same version approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in 2012. A press release from Lautenberg’s office states that this bill would (a) screen chemicals for safety by prioritizing chemicals based on risk, (b) require risk management (e.g., labeling, disposal, restricted uses or bans) of chemicals that cannot be proven safe, (c) establish a public database to catalog the health and safety information submitted by chemical manufacturers while also protecting trade secrets, and (d) promote innovation and development of safe chemical alternatives.

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.

S. 718 – to increase U.S. exports to Africa by at least 200% in real dollar value within 10 years

H.R. 1524 – to require 85% domestic content in green technologies purchased by federal agencies or by states with federal funds and in property eligible for the renewable energy production or investment tax credits

H.R. 1534 – to authorize appropriations for the port security grant program through 2017

H.R. 1554 - to restrict the use of offshore tax havens and abusive tax shelters to inappropriately avoid federal taxation

H.R. 1555 – to reduce international tax avoidance and restore a level playing field for U.S. businesses

H.R. 1556 – to prevent corporations from exploiting tax treaties to evade taxation of U.S.

H.R. 1563 – to enable concrete masonry products manufacturers to establish, finance and carry out a coordinated program of research, education and promotion to improve, maintain and develop markets for concrete masonry products

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