Earlier this month, bipartisan trade legislation was introduced to renew rules critical for congressional approval of various trade agreements currently in negotiations – the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP), the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) and a recently proposed initiative for trade in environmental goods and services. The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act (S. 1900/H.R. 3830), introduced January 9, 2014 by Sens. Max Baucus (D-MT) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), focuses on “trade promotion authority” (TPA), which expired in 2007. TPA establishes procedures for an up-or-down vote in Congress without amendments that would assure U.S. negotiating partners – 11 Asian-Pacific countries with the TPP, 28 European Union (EU) countries with the T-TIP, 22 countries with the TISA and 14 parties, including the EU, with the environmental goods and services initiative – that Congress will not alter a negotiated agreement.
In addition to TPA, the proposed legislation would ensure congressional input during trade negotiations and address other trade challenges facing U.S. companies doing business abroad, including competition from state-owned enterprises; localization barriers to trade; restrictions on cross-border data flows; tougher, enforceable rules against unscientific barriers to U.S. agriculture; and guidance for addressing currency manipulation tactics making U.S. products less competitive. The Business Roundtable, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, National Foreign Trade Council, Farm Bureau and Coalition of Services Industries have all expressed strong support for the bill.
The legislation’s timing is considered crucial to the successful completion of the TPP, T-TIP and TISA negotiations. Combined, the TPP and T-TIP would open markets with nearly 1 billion consumers, covering nearly two-thirds of the global economy and 65 percent of global trade. The TISA covers approximately 50 percent of the global economy and over 70 percent of the global services trade.
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker lauded the proposed legislation: “Ninety-five percent of the world’s consumers are outside of our borders, and completing trade agreements that help more American companies reach these markets will create more jobs in the United States at higher wages. The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014 will help in these efforts to expand market access for American businesses.”
S. 1900 has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee and H.R. 3830 has been referred to both the House Committee on Ways and Means and the Budget Committee. In the coming weeks, both chambers will hold hearings and mark up the legislation. Companies supporting the bill should contact their members of Congress and trade groups to ensure its passage.