Legislative Update: Hearing on Trade Policy, New Bills on Patent Trolls, Argentina, Etc.
Congress will be in session only a few more weeks before a month-long recess, and with other high-profile issues taking up lawmakers’ attention there is little expectation of any forward movement on trade issues until at least September. It remains unclear whether the Generalized System of Preferences and the Andean Trade Preferences Act will be renewed before their expiration on July 31, or whether a measure to reinstate the president’s trade promotion authority will be introduced before the break.
In the meantime, the House Ways and Means Committee has scheduled a July 18 hearing to hear from new U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman on President Obama’s trade policy agenda. It is unlikely that this agenda has changed much from the beginning of the year despite Froman recently taking over from Ron Kirk, and discussion at the hearing is therefore expected to focus on negotiations currently underway on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the Trade in Services Agreement, an expanded Information Technology Agreement, and potential World Trade Organization agreements on trade facilitation and environmental goods and services. Also of interest will be the need for TPA; trade restrictive practices and non-tariff barriers in major emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil as well as bilateral and multilateral trade disputes and concerns; bilateral investment treaty negotiations with China, India, Pakistan and Mauritius as well as new BITs and investment opportunities; and trade and investment relationships with new and emerging trading partners.
Also of note are the following legislative measures that have recently been introduced.
Intellectual Property Rights. In introducing H.R. 2639 on July 10, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said this bill “is designed to provide a constructive framework for patent infringement cases to proceed while minimizing the problem of abusive litigation.” Jeffries noted that lawsuits brought by so-called patent trolls result in the loss of more than $29 billion annually and that these entities are increasingly targeting small and medium-sized businesses. The bill would respond to this problem by requiring a heightened pleading standard in patent infringement actions and providing end-users with the opportunity to stay litigation and limit unnecessarily burdensome discovery until matters related to dismissal motions, transfer of venue issues and claim construction are decided. It would also increase judicial scrutiny for abusive litigation to discourage frivolous matters from being commenced, Jeffries said.
Argentina. H.Res.291 expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that Argentina's membership in the G20 should be conditioned on its adherence to international norms of economic relations and commitment to the rule of law. “The government of Argentina’s open scorn for international norms and its flagrant defiance of lawful U.S. court judgments are completely incompatible with membership in a cooperative body such as the G20,” said Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who introduced the bill July 9. Smith noted that Argentina has been censured by the International Monetary Fund for its “systematic manipulation of official statistics,” nationalized foreign and domestic assets without compensation, harassed journalism outlets, and pushed for new laws that would allow the ruling party to pack the court system with its allies.
Handguns. H.R. 2567 would require all handguns manufactured, sold in or imported into the United States to incorporate technology that precludes the average five-year-old child from operating the handgun when it is ready to fire. It would also require any handgun sold, offered for sale, traded, transferred, shipped, leased or distributed in the U.S. two years after enactment to be child-resistant or retrofitted with a child-resistant mechanism. This bill was introduced June 27 by Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., and referred to the House committees on Energy and Commerce and the Judiciary.
Ethanol. H.R. 2564 would extend through Jan. 1, 2016, the additional 14.27 cents/liter duty on ethanol. It was introduced June 27 by Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., and referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.