While most of the Congressional trade debate has centered around whether to renew Trade Promotion Authority (so-called “fast track” authority) and the merits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the full package of trade measures is contained in a trio of bills: the Trade Act of 2015, the Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015, and the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015. The first two are ready to be signed by the President. The third requires a Congressional conference to resolve differences between the versions passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate.

This client alert provides an overview of the key components of each of the three pieces of legislation.

Trade Act of 2015

The Trade Act of 2015, which passed Congress on Wednesday, provides Trade Promotion Authority (“TPA”) to the President. By granting TPA, Congress committed to a “fast track” procedure for Congress to approve free trade agreements (“FTAs”) with an up-or-down vote, without the opportunity for filibuster or for amendments to the final text of the FTA. The Trade Act of 2015 sets forth a detailed list of negotiating objectives that the President is expected to follow in pursuing such agreements, as well as a mechanism for rescinding fast track procedures if the Executive Branch fails to meet its TPA obligations. The Trade Act of 2015 also lays out several new transparency and reporting requirements that are intended to ensure better Congressional oversight during the FTA negotiation process.

The new TPA procedures will apply to the ongoing negotiation of the following agreements:

  • the Trans-Pacific Partnership (“TPP”);
  • the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (“TTIP”);
  • the Trade in Services Agreement (“TiSA”); and
  • the Environmental Goods Agreement.

The TPA procedures also would apply to any new trade initiatives.

With TPA now in place, TPP negotiations will enter their final phase, during which the 12 TPP parties are expected to make serious offers concerning the 

imports and exports) and the movement towards a “single window” through which all U.S. government import and export requirements are fulfilled.

The bill also seeks to promote American manufacturing by establishing a new miscellaneous tariff bill (“MTB”) process to allow for the temporary suspension or reduction of duties related to goods for which there is insufficient domestic availability.

With respect to effective enforcement of trade laws, the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 will

  • authorize CBP to share information (including samples) with intellectual property rights holders to help CBP determine whether a good crossing the U.S. border at a port of entry violates a copyright or trademark;
  • establish the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center within U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement;
  • establish the Trade Remedy Law Enforcement Division within CBP’s Office of International Trade to prevent and investigate the evasion of duties imposed under our trade remedy laws;
  • establish the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center and a Chief Manufacturing Negotiator within the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative;
  • authorize the investigation of evasion of antidumping and countervailing duty orders; and
  • enhance targeting of high-risk shipments by strengthening internal controls over new importers and by addressing the importer requirements concerning nonresident importers;

Finally, the bill promotes international labor standards and the protection of international human rights by eliminating the “consumptive demand” exception to the prohibition on importing merchandise made by convict, forced, or indentured labor.