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Legislative Update: Tariffs, Trade Agreements, Senate Confirmations

Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

Tariffs. The Global Trade Accountability Act (H.R. 5281, introduced March 14 by Rep. Davidson, R-Ohio) would subject executive branch trade restrictions such as tariffs, duties, and quotas to congressional approval.

The additional tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum announced recently by President Trump will be among the topics discussed at March 22 hearings before the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees.

Trade Agreements. The Level the Playing Field in Global Trade Act (S. 2566, introduced March 15 by Sen. Merkley, D-Ore.) would require new free trade agreements considered under trade promotion authority to recognize “egregious environmental and labor practices as a form of illegal subsidy that can be remedied by U.S. duties,” according to a press release from Merkley’s office. On the other hand, companies that meet high standards on these issues would receive “streamlined trade and protection from enforcement actions.”

Senate Confirmations. The full Senate has confirmed Jeffrey Gerrish to be deputy U.S. trade representative for Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and industrial competitiveness. The White House has previously said Gerrish has “extensive experience litigating trade disputes before the Department of Commerce, International Trade Commission, federal courts, North American Free Trade Agreement binational panels and the World Trade Organization,” which according to press reports included substantial work on behalf of U.S. steel companies.

The Senate has also confirmed Gilbert Kaplan as under secretary of Commerce for international trade. In this position Kaplan will head the International Trade Administration, which plays a role in both trade enforcement (e.g., trade remedy actions such as antidumping and countervailing duty orders) and trade promotion (e.g., foreign-trade zones and export expansion). Most recently Kaplan worked in private practice, but earlier in his career he served as deputy assistant secretary of commerce for import administration and head of the DOC’s Office of Investigations, where he was in charge of day-to-day trade remedy law administration.

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