TPP – Opposition Remains Strong. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) stated last week that the U.S. Senate will not vote on TPP’s implementing legislation during lame-duck session of Congress as many – including the Obama Administration – had hoped, saying:

The current agreement, the Trans-Pacific agreement, which has some serious flaws, will not be acted upon this year.”

Congressional trade committee staff reportedly remain focused on TPP implementation issues and have yet to begin working with the Obama Administration on drafting a TPP implementing bill. The U.S. Congress returns to Washington next week, after Monday’s Labor Day holiday. There is approximately four weeks remaining in the legislative session before the November elections, with a crowded legislative agenda that includes, among other items, funding the U.S. Government before the end of September.

CFIUS – ChemChina-Syngenta Deal Cleared, Antitrust Review Ongoing. Last week, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) cleared China National Chemical Corp.’s (ChemChina) proposed $43 billion acquisition of Swiss-based agribusiness Syngenta. The transaction’s antitrust review is ongoing. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) reiterated his call for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to have a permanent role on CFIUS on 22 August, saying:

The ChemChina-Syngenta merger raises questions about national security because of the need to ensure a safe food supply in the United States. It’s clear that China is looking at purchasing companies with food production expertise as part of a long-term strategic plan and a component of their national security. We need to be looking at these mergers in the same way, so it makes sense for CFIUS to take that angle into consideration when reviewing these transactions.”

Chairman Grassley introduced legislation (S. 3161) in July that would secure USDA’s position on CFIUS and ensure that foreign acquisitions of major U.S. food and agriculture companies are reviewed for potential national security threats. USDA is not among the 16 federal agencies that comprise CFIUS, a panel chaired by U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew.

Chairman Grassley announced on 23 August that his committee will hold a hearing in September on the increasing consolidation within the seed and chemical industry and related antitrust concerns.

Travel Goods – USTR Notice for Public Comment on the GSP Program. The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) is considering the elimination of tariffs on U.S. imports of suitcases, handbags and other travel-related goods for more economically advanced nations under its Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program. In a notice published in The Federal Register last Thursday, USTR is seeking public comment and will convene a public hearing in October to gather stakeholder input on petitions to modify the list of articles eligible for duty-free treatment under the GSP program and the GSP status of certain beneficiary developing countries because of country practices. The notice also reflects USTR plans to conclude its review of luggage and travel goods by January 2017.