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Trade Policy Could Move Forward in New Congress but Prospects Still Unclear

Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

International trade policy could be one of the few areas on which a Democratic president and the Republican-controlled Congress that voters recently approved may find common ground over the next two years. Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg P.A. will host a free 30-minute webinar Nov. 20 to discuss the election results and what they might mean for trade-related issues.

This month’s mid-term elections resulted in Republicans taking back control of the Senate and gaining their largest majority in the House since 1928. Some observers have asserted that the result could be the most propitious environment for advancing trade liberalization initiatives in many years. They point out that in some of the most highly contested elections in North Carolina, Iowa, Georgia and Massachusetts, the candidates who lost argued against increased trade and, in one instance, accused their opponent of offshoring jobs. They also note that Republicans are typically more friendly to business and trade interests.

Nevertheless, trade advocates are not popping any champagne corks just yet. The Republican majority in the Senate is not a super-majority (two-thirds of the chamber), leaving the GOP unable to approve treaties or override presidential vetoes without some cooperation from the other side of the aisle. That could be difficult to come by given that there is no love lost between outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and his successor, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and that each party has its own political reasons to avoid the kind of compromise that could move trade-related initiatives forward. There is also worry that any unilateral action by the White House on controversial issues such as immigration could poison any potential for cooperation.

Prospects for breaking the legislative logjam on trade thus remain uncertain, with very real implications for businesses. Import duty breaks under the Generalized System of Preferences and the miscellaneous tariff bill remain expired, with a cumulative cost nearing $1 billion. The debate over whether to reinstate trade promotion authority will continue, likely delaying the conclusion of negotiations on new free trade agreements with Europe and Asia. Preferential programs for African-made goods and certain textiles and apparel face pending expiration dates as well.

Nicole Bivens Collinson, president of international trade and government relations for ST&R, will conduct a free webinar Nov. 20 to review the election results and what they might mean for trade. Topics such as the makeup and leadership of key congressional committees, the need to educate lawmakers on trade policy topics, and which trade issues could see action in the 114th Congress and when will be addressed. This 30-minute presentation will be followed by a 15-minute question and answer period.

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