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Speaking on an Oct. 15 conference call arranged by the Council on Foreign Relations, U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman rejected the idea of renegotiating the recently-concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership to remedy alleged shortcomings. However, implicitly addressing criticisms that past trade agreements have not always fulfilled their promise because partner countries have failed to abide by some of their obligations, Froman said the White House is developing a robust enforcement plan for TPP.
Following a two-day labor and employment ministerial meeting in Berlin, the G7 group of countries adopted this week a declaration outlining specific actions they will take to promote worker rights and improve working conditions and environmental protections in global supply chains.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has announced changes as part of Phase IV of its ongoing test of the Document Image System, which allows Automated Commercial Environment participants to submit electronic images of a specific set of CBP and partner government agency forms, documents and supporting information to CBP via an electronic data interchange.
The Department of Justice reports that two California companies and three individuals have agreed to settle two cases alleging that they were responsible for importing children’s products containing lead, phthalates and small parts posing a choking hazard for children under the age of three.
The penalty includes a $7.8 million fine, contributions of $880,825 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and $350,000 to the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Fund, and a $969,175 forfeiture payment. The company has also agreed to implement a plan to ensure future compliance with the Lacey Act.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has issued an interim final rule amending its regulations to reflect that on Nov. 1 the Automated Commercial Environment will be a CBP-authorized Electronic Data Interchange system. The rule also formally informs the public that the Automated Commercial System is being phased out as a CBP-authorized EDI system for the processing of electronic entry and entry summary filings.
The Senate could soon approve legislation making the first significant overhaul of the Toxic Substances Control Act since its enactment nearly 40 years ago (S. 697) after the bill’s lead sponsor agreed to changes that won the support of two key senators, bringing the number of supporters to a filibuster-proof 60. The House of Representatives passed its TSCA reform bill (H.R. 2576) by a 398-1 vote in June, and the full Senate could take up S. 697 within the next week or two.
After more than five years of negotiations produced a final Trans-Pacific Partnership this week, supporters now face the task of putting the free trade agreement among a dozen Pacific Rim countries into effect. In the U.S., there are already indications that securing congressional approval could be a tough job. In addition, timeframes within U.S. law and the TPP itself could delay full implementation for years.
Press reports indicate that the drop in exports is attributable to the increasing value of the U.S. dollar against foreign currencies and weak demand abroad as major trade partners continue to struggle economically.
A joint statement asserted that the final agreement “achieves the goal we set forth of an ambitious, comprehensive, high standard and balanced agreement” that “addresses the challenges our stakeholders face in the 21st century, while taking into account the diversity of our levels of development.”
The ninth meeting of U.S. and Taiwanese officials under a bilateral trade and investment framework agreement illustrated that the two sides are continuing their work to resolve trade irritants as they consider future initiatives such as a bilateral investment agreement and Taiwan’s potential participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Just two months after the Generalized System of Preferences was reauthorized, President Obama has issued a proclamation modifying GSP to eliminate benefits for some products and countries and restore or maintain benefits for others. Additional changes could be announced in the coming months based on the results of an ongoing review by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
The downward revisions reflect factors such as falling import demand in China, Brazil and other emerging economies; declining prices for oil and other primary commodities; and significant exchange rate fluctuations. In addition, volatility in financial markets, uncertainty over monetary policy in the United States and mixed recent economic data have clouded the outlook for trade in the second half of 2015 and beyond.
The Advisory Committee on Commercial Operations to U.S. Customs and Border Protection will hold an open meeting Oct. 29 in Washington, D.C.