Today, June 29, 2015, President Obama signed into law trade promotion authority (TPA), giving his administration the ability to negotiate international trade agreements subject to approval by Congress without amendment.  This is the first time TPA, which last expired in 2007, has been approved for the Obama Administration. The White House announcement is here.

Today’s signing occurred after a series of divisive debates and highly contested votes in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The package of legislation signed today should help the Administration to close out negotiations on the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which Obama hopes will set a new standard for trade agreements in the 21st century.

As part of the TPA legislation, President Obama also signed into law today:

  • New trade remedy law provisions known as the “American Trade Enforcement Effectiveness Act” or the “Leveling the Playing Field Act.”
  • Renewal and expansion of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), which provides job training, income support and other benefits to U.S. workers displaced by international trade.
  • A ten-year extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
  • An extension of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), which provides preferential duty-free treatment to more than 120 developing countries.

The Leveling the Playing Field Act provisions are notable for U.S. companies and industries facing unfair trade practices such as dumping and subsidies. These changes are the first legislative changes to strengthen U.S. antidumping and countervailing duty laws in more than 20 years.   Among other things, these provisions would:

  • Enhance the Commerce Department’s ability to address non-cooperative foreign companies and governments in trade remedy proceeding.
  • Clarify the material injury standard in trade cases to ensure it is consistent with the intent of Congress when originally enacted.
  • Enhance the ability of the Commerce Department to calculate a trade remedy when foreign prices or costs have been distorted.
  • Clarify the Commerce Department’s authority regarding the selection of which foreign companies to investigate in a trade remedy proceeding.

In Part II, we will analyze these provisions in more detail and explain why they should help U.S, companies, industries and workers in future trade cases.