The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) issued President Obama's 2015 Trade Policy Agenda (the President's Trade Agenda) on March 4. Many of the policy goals in the President's Trade Agenda are objectives that we reported on last year.
The President's Trade Agenda describes the comeback of "Made in America" and the importance of the manufacturing sector in America's recovery from the Great Recession. The President's Trade Agenda further explains that record exports have helped to create 900,000 manufacturing jobs and have led to a 30 percent increase in manufacturing output in the past five years. This has triggered investment in new factories and the return of manufacturing jobs from overseas. In order to preserve these achievements, the President's Trade Agenda explains that a threshold requirement of any trade negotiations this year will be "to pursue trade policies aimed at keeping American manufacturers competitive with their global peers."
The President's Trade Agenda further articulates that enduring gains for the U.S. economy may be realized only by meeting the challenges and opportunities of international trade head-on. As stated in the document, "the question we face is not whether we can roll back the tide of globalization," but "whether we are going to shape it or be shaped by it, whether we are going to do everything we can to ensure that it reflects our interest and our values – or to let other countries define it for us."
In order to most effectively shape the United States' participation in the global economy this year, the President's Trade Agenda advocates for Congressional approval of new Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation. According to the President's Trade Agenda, TPA would enable Congress to set "very clear priorities and objectives for the Executive Branch" in negotiating trade agreements, and to establish "a set of notification and consultation procedures that allows the U.S. to speak with one voice in negotiations." TPA will facilitate additional "significant progress" in the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) between the United States and the European Union, and the conclusion of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations between the United States and 11 countries in the Asia Pacific.
The President's Trade Agenda sets several additional goals for trade policy in 2015, including changes to theAfrican Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) and renewal of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) programs, which expired on December 31, 2013, and provide critical support for American workers facing short-term trade related employment transitions.
The President's Trade Agenda also reaffirms the importance of trade enforcement. Several tools will be utilized this year, including World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement, and the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center (ITEC). ITEC reports to USTR and brings together experts on trade-related issues from around the federal government to work on difficult enforcement issues. In 2015, ITEC will continue to focus on several key issues, such as trade distortions resulting from Chinese industrial policies and countervailable subsidies.
In sum, the President's Trade Agenda recognizes the importance of American manufacturing and makes this segment of the economy a central focus of U.S. trade policy in 2015.