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U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman and Minister of Commerce and Industry of India Nirmala Sitharaman gathered in Washington, D.C., Oct. 29 for the ninth ministerial-level meeting of the India-U.S. Trade Policy Forum. According to a joint statement, the two governments reviewed substantive progress achieved this year in deepening bilateral trade and investment goals and discussed planned engagement for next year that can promote economic growth and job creation in both countries.
Effective Dec. 29, the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is significantly increasing many of the fees charged, and adding two new fees, for conducting agricultural quarantine and inspection services at U.S. ports of entry. APHIS said the higher fees are needed to meet program costs that have skyrocketed along with international cargo and passenger traffic, but affected industry members have expressed concern at the size of the increases and their effects on commerce and consumers.
The Trade Facilitation Agreement that World Trade Organization members concluded in 2013 “is global trade's equivalent of the shift from dial-up Internet access to broadband” and could have a bigger impact on international trade than the elimination of all remaining tariffs, according to the WTO’s annual World Trade Report. The TFA will take effect once it has been ratified by two-thirds (approximately 126) of the WTO’s 191 members, and Pakistan recently became the 51st to take this step.
The Department of Transportation has posted on its website for public comment a draft National Freight Strategic Plan that aims to describe the U.S. freight transportation system and future demands on it; identify major corridors and gateways; assess physical, institutional and financial barriers to improvement; and specify best practices for enhancing the system.
The U.S. and Pakistan recently announced steps to further increase two-way trade and investment. These steps, outlined below, augment a joint action plan rolled out in May 2014 that focused on issues such as diversifying agricultural production, promoting intellectual property protection, implementing the World Trade Organization Trade Facilitation Agreement, and seeking Pakistan’s accession to the WTO Government Procurement Agreement.
Least-developed countries circulated at the World Trade Organization this week a proposal to reform preferential rules of origin for LDCs in an effort to help them take better advantage of duty-free, quota-free treatment by many of the world’s economies. The proposal could be part of a package of initiatives for LDCs that WTO members are likely to focus on at their Dec. 15-18 ministerial conference in Nairobi, Kenya.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., now appears likely to replace John Boehner, R-Ohio, as Speaker of the House. That change will set off a series of moves that, although unlikely to have a significant effect on trade policy, could have an impact on the fate of trade-related legislation over the coming year, including the customs reauthorization bill that is still awaiting a House-Senate conference.
In its semiannual report on foreign exchange rate policies released Oct. 19, the Treasury Department appeared cautiously optimistic about the valuation of the Chinese yuan against the dollar but critical of continued exchange rate intervention by Korea. The report again determined that none of the United States’ major trading partners is manipulating its exchange rate to gain an unfair trade advantage.
The ACE exporter account portal will enable USPPIs or their authorized agents to transmit EEI via the AESDirect portal in ACE. This functionality will initially be available only to certain USPPIs that have been selected by Census, but after this brief initial phase CBP will announce the public availability of this functionality on its website.
Oct. 18 marked “Adoption Day,” the day on which the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action became effective and participants were required to begin making the necessary preparations for implementation of their JCPOA commitments. All current trade restrictions against Iran are still in effect and will remain unchanged until “Implementation Day,” an as-yet-unspecified date when the International Atomic Energy Agency verifies that Iran has implemented key nuclear-related measures described in the JCPOA.
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.