With many members’ focus on the upcoming elections, the Washington trade agenda suffered over the summer and fall. But with the elections over, there is a renewed possibility of action on many long-stalled items, either as part of the lame-duck session or in the new Congress. Here’s a brief run-down of the top trade items:
- Trade Promotion Authority. Many trade-related bills have been stalled as Congress considers whether to pass a bill to limit its own ability to amend trade agreements negotiated by the President. Under a Trade Promotion Authority bill, Congress would get an up/down vote on agreements, with no or very limited opportunities for debate or amendment of a concluded agreement’s text. TPA remains the Hill’s most important trade priority, and the pressure has only increased as negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement near completion. A TPA bill will likely not be introduced in the lame-duck session, as Republicans and Democrats remain divided as to what should be included in such a bill.
- Renewal of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). The GSP allows for the duty-free importation of goods from certain least-developed countries. GSP expired in 2013, leaving many American manufacturers to foot unforeseen import duty bills on components imported from abroad. GSP renewal languished during the election fever of the summer, and the focus on getting a TPA bill through. While many other trade bills are likely to pass only if attached to TPA, GSP renewal stands a chance with or without a TPA bill. However, certain members would like to see GSP reformed as a condition of renewal, in particular by editing the list of countries eligible for GSP preference.
- Customs Reform and Reauthorization: A number of bills to reform and reauthorize U.S. Customs & Border Protection have been proposed over the last two Congresses. Efforts to hammer out differences in the various bills’ treatment of issues such as antidumping and countervailing duty enforcement stalled as election fever gripped the Hill, but a new Congress may make more headway.
- Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB): A package bill to reduce duties on imported inputs not manufactured in the United States has been proposed in each of the last two Congresses. These types of bills used to pass as a matter of course, but the recent MTBs have stalled over concerns that the duty reductions amount to earmarks. These same concerns may prevent much action in the new Congress unless the bill is coupled with something, such as TPA, that induces otherwise-opposed members to relent.
Senior Public Policy Advisor Nova Daly contributed to this article.