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Legislative Update: GSP, AGOA, MTB, CBP, Trade Negotiations, Buy American

Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

Trade Preferences. The Labor Rights for Development Act (S. 2307, introduced Jan. 16 by Sen. Menendez, D-N.J.) would require countries to eliminate forced and child labor, recognize the right to collective bargaining, and provide acceptable wages, hours of work, and a safe and healthy work environment to be eligible for the Generalized System of Preferences. The Anti-Trafficking Trade Act (S. 2308, also introduced Jan. 16 by Sen Menendez) would suspend GSP eligibility for countries that do not take steps to combat human trafficking.

The House passed by voice vote Jan. 17 the AGOA and MCA Modernization Act (H.R. 3445), which would direct the president to establish a website for the collection and dissemination of information regarding the African Growth and Opportunity Act and urge the State Department to promote the use of AGOA benefits by eligible sub-Saharan African countries. This bill would also urge the president to (1) facilitate trans-boundary trade among eligible SSA countries, (2) provide training for business and government trade officials on accessing AGOA benefits, (3) provide capacity building for African entrepreneurs and trade associations on production strategies, quality standards, and market development, (4) provide capacity building training to promote product diversification and value-added processing, and (5) provide capacity building and technical assistance funding to help African businesses and institutions comply with U.S. counter-terrorism policies.

MTB. The House of Representatives voted with no objection Jan. 16 to approve the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill Act of 2017 (H.R. 4318), which would reduce or suspend import duties on nearly 1,700 tariff lines through Dec. 31, 2020. It is unclear if or when the Senate might vote on the identical companion bill (S. 2108).

Trade Negotiations. The Trade Transparency and Public Input Act (S. 2310, introduced Jan. 16 by Sen. Tester, D-Mont.) would require the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to permit the public to submit comments on trade agreement negotiations through the Internet.

Nominations. The Senate Finance Committee ordered favorably reported Jan. 17 the nomination of Kevin McAleenan to be commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. On Jan. 18 the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation approved the nominations of Ann Marie Buerkle to be chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Dana Baiocco to be a CPSC commissioner.

However, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., is reportedly blocking further Senate action on all trade nominees in an effort to get answers on specific issues from USTR Robert Lighthizer.

Subcommittee Assignments. Senate Finance announced that the following senators will serve on its Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness: John Cornyn (R-Texas), Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Robert Casey (D-Pa.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), and Ben Cardin (D-Md.). 

Buy American. The 21st Century Buy American Act (H.R. 4812, introduced Jan. 17 by Rep. Cicilline, D-R.I.) would amend the Buy American Act to provide greater transparency regarding exceptions to domestic sourcing requirements. This bill would also increase the domestic content percentage to 60 percent.

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