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Legislative Update: Slow Going on Trade Issues

Monday, March 11, 2013

Legislative Update: Slow Going on Trade Issues

As expected, two months after being seated the 113th Congress has made little headway on trade and customs issues. House and Senate committees will likely hold hearings on the Obama administration’s trade priorities for 2013 later this month, at which point the legislative agenda could become clearer.

India. The House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee will hold a hearing March 13 on U.S.-India trade relations. Issues to be discussed at this hearing will include the long-term trade and investment relationship, a potential bilateral investment treaty, agricultural market access barriers, India’s National Manufacturing Policy and other forced localization policies, intellectual property rights protection, compulsory licenses, patent revocations and other policies on pharmaceuticals, and India’s system of cascading tariffs, taxes and other import charges.

Considering that the White House is focused on concluding the Trans-Pacific Partnership, launching talks on a free trade agreement with the European Union, and negotiating a new international services agreement and an expanded pact on information technology products, Rep. Devin Nunes’ decision to focus on India in the first hearing of his tenure as subcommittee chairman is an interesting one. In announcing the hearing Nunes, noting the size of India’s market, said that the “U.S.-India partnership is and will continue to be crucial to the global economy in the 21st century” but that he is “concerned that India has launched a series of alarming policies that harm U.S. job creators and are counterproductive.”

Subcommittee Assignments. After some delay the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees have named the members of their trade subcommittees.

In the House, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., will chair the Trade Subcommittee and will be joined by Republicans Kevin Brady of Texas, Dave Reichert of Washington, Vern Buchanan of Florida, Adrian Smith of Nebraska, Aaron Schock of Illinois and Lynn Jenkins of Kansas, along with Charles Boustany of Louisiana and Peter Roskam of Illinois who are new to the subcommittee this year. Democratic members will include Ranking Member Charles Rangel of New York, Richard Neal of Massachusetts, John Larson of Connecticut, Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Ron Kind of Wisconsin. Democratic Reps. Jim McDermott of Washington, Lloyd Doggett of Texas and Joe Crowley of New York will not be serving on the subcommittee this year.

In the Senate, the Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs and Global Competitiveness will again feature Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, as chairman. Other Democrats will include John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, Charles Schumer of New York, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Maria Cantwell of Washington, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and new subcommittee members Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Michael Bennet of Colorado. On the Republican side Johnny Isakson of Georgia has replaced John Thune of South Dakota as ranking member. Thune will remain a member of the subcommittee along with Orrin Hatch of Utah, Charles Grassley of Iowa and Pat Roberts of Kansas and new subcommittee member Rob Portman of Ohio. Sens. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Bill Nelson, D-Florida, left the subcommittee this year, along with John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, who was named secretary of state.

Domestic Manufacturing. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said recently that House Democrats plan to relaunch their “Make It In America” initiative, which seeks to promote domestic manufacturing. Hoyer said this year’s legislative package will include “new proposals” compared to the one announced in 2012, which included provisions to improve the tools available to prevent the evasion of antidumping and countervailing duties, improve the functioning of U.S. export promotion programs, provide specialized training to U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents to prevent mislabeled or transshipped items from entering the U.S., promote increased textile exports, and eliminate the tax deduction for moving expenses for companies sending jobs overseas and providing a new tax credit for companies that bring jobs back to the U.S.

MTB. The miscellaneous trade bill would reinstate hundreds of tariff suspensions and reductions on imports of manufacturing inputs and finished products. The House Ways and Means Committee has announced on its Web site that in order for bills introduced in the 112th Congress to be included in the 113th Congress MTB process, a current MTB disclosure form must be submitted no later than March 28. The committee notes that individual bills will not have to be reintroduced and that no new bills are being accepted at this time. Bills whose sponsors have not returned in the 113th Congress must be adopted by another representative who completes a current disclosure form for that bill.

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 (

H.R. 851 – to amend the tax code to encourage domestic insourcing and discourage foreign outsourcing (introduced Feb. 27 by Rep. Pascrell; referred to the House Ways and Means Committee)

H.R. 872 – to lift the trade embargo on Cuba (introduced Feb. 27 by Rep. Rangel; referred to the House committees on Foreign Affairs, Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, the Judiciary, Financial Services, Oversight and Government Reform, and Agriculture)

H.R. 873 – to facilitate the export of U.S. agricultural products to Cuba, remove impediments to the export to Cuba of medical devices and medicines, allow travel to Cuba by U.S. legal residents, and establish an agricultural export promotion program with respect to Cuba (introduced Feb. 27 by Rep. Rangel; referred to the House committees on Foreign Affairs, Ways and Means, the Judiciary, Agriculture, and Financial Services)

S. 428 – to expedite the development of Arctic deepwater ports (introduced Feb. 28 by Sen. Begich; referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works)

S. 431 – to authorize duty-free status for imports of a specific amount of garments from Nepal for seven years (introduced Feb. 28 by Sen. Feinstein; referred to the Senate Committee on Finance)

S. 432 – to provide to 13 least-developed countries in Asia and the South Pacific (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Kiribati, Laos, Maldives, Nepal, Samoa, Solomon Islands, East Timor, Tuvalu and Vanuatu) duty-free and quota-free benefits for garments and other products similar to those afforded to beneficiary countries under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (introduced Feb. 28 by Sen. Feinstein; referred to the Senate Committee on Finance)

H.R. 887 – to terminate the Economic Development Administration (introduced Feb. 28 by Rep. Pompeo; referred to the House committees on Transportation and Infrastructure and Financial Services)

H.R. 889 – to create a task force that identifies, prioritizes and develops a response to policies and practices of the U.S. government, foreign governments or international bodies that deny fair market access to Internet-related goods and services or that threaten the technical operation, security and free flow of global Internet communications (introduced Feb. 28 by Rep. Lofgren; referred to the House committees on Ways and Means, Foreign Affairs, the Judiciary, and Energy and Commerce)

S. 435 – to ban the exportation of crude oil or refined petroleum products derived from federal land (introduced March 4 by Sen. Menendez; referred to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs)

H.R. 937 – to create a new $5 million competitive grant program for high-tech textile research and development projects (introduced March 4 by Rep. Price; referred to the House committees on Science, Space and Technology, Ways and Means, and Foreign Affairs)

H.R. 949 – to ensure that transportation and infrastructure projects carried out using federal financial assistance are constructed with steel, iron and manufactured goods produced in the United States (introduced March 5 by Rep. Rahall; referred to the House committees on Transportation and Infrastructure and Financial Services)

H.R. 974 – to strengthen freight-related infrastructure by expanding the definition of the national freight network to include rail, navigable waterways, inland ports, seaports, freight intermodal connectors, airports and aerotropolis transportation systems and by creating a National Freight Infrastructure Investment Grants program (introduced March 5 by Rep. Sires; referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure)

H.R. 996 – to establish an improved regulatory process to prevent the introduction and establishment in the United States of non-native wildlife and wild animal pathogens and parasites that are likely to cause harm (introduced March 6 by Rep. Slaughter; referred to the House committees on Natural Resources, the Judiciary, Ways and Means, and the Budget)

H.R. 1012 – to strengthen federal consumer protection and product traceability with respect to commercially marketed seafood by, among other things, ensuring that inspections conducted to determine seafood safety also look for seafood fraud, requiring the development of a publicly available list of foreign exporters who violate federal food safety laws, and allowing the refusal of shipments of fraudulent seafood from foreign exporters (introduced March 6 by Rep. Markey; referred to the House committees on Energy and Commerce, Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Ways and Means)

H.R. 1020 – to increase and adjust for inflation the maximum value of articles that may be imported duty-free by one person on one day (introduced March 6 by Rep. Schock; referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means)

S. 489 – to increase and adjust for inflation the maximum value of articles that may be imported duty-free by one person on one day (introduced March 7 by Sen. Thune; referred to the Senate Committee on Finance)

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