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Key Trade Bills Introduced in Congress Could Break Log Jam Blocking Tariff Relief on Sporting Goods

Date: 1/13/14

Washington D.C., January 13, 2014 - Bills to give the President greater authority to negotiate Trade Agreements were introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate yesterday.  The Trade Priorities Act of 2014 (TPA) would grant the President “Trade Promotion Authority” allowing him to negotiate trade agreements and submit them to Congress for a straight up or down vote with no opportunity to amend the agreement.  In exchange for TPA powers, the President would follow guidelines established by Congress. TPA is critical to passing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (which is in the final negotiation stage) and the recently launched Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations.

“Introduction of TPA is a major step in the right direction for improving the trade environment for SFIA members,” said Bill Sells, SFIA Vice President of Government Relations. “The current trade playing field is tilted against U.S. companies. Passage of trade agreements that give U.S. manufacturers greater access to foreign markets will benefit U.S. businesses and the economy.  The Trade Priorities Act of 2014 also presents the best opportunity to reinstate preferred duty status on thousands of products covered in the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill and the Generalized Systems of Preferences.”   
TPA was last passed in 2002 and expired in 2007.  Since 2007, the flow of trade agreements has slowed and the scope has been limited to bi-lateral agreements with a single trading partner.  The Senate TPA bill was introduced jointly by Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and ranking member Orrin Hatch (R-UT).  The top Democrat on the House Ways & Means Committee, Sander Levin (D-MI) did not join Ways & Means Chairman David Camp (R-MI) in introducing the House TPA bill due to opposition from organized labor.  President Obama supports TPA and will have to build Democratic support in the House to ensure passage of TPA. Click here to contact Congress.
The Trade Priorities Act is a major development as it provides Congress with a vehicle to consider several tariff relief bills that expired in 2013.  Temporary tariff-relief on basketballs, volleyballs and golf bags expired on January 1, 2012 and new duty relief on golf club heads has not been enacted due to stalemate on trade matters.  In all there were 11 SFIA-led tariff relief bills included in the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB) Congress introduced in 2012 and again in 2013 but has not moved due to philosophical differences despite having broad support in Congress. The total tariff relief for the effected sporting goods products is estimated at $5.5 million. 
The Generalized Systems of Preference (GSP) provides favorable tariff treatment on more than 5,000 products made in nearly 140 countries with developing economies.  In 2012, GSP tariff relief was estimated at $750 million on $19.9 billion in GSP imports. The GSP expired on July 31, 2013 and Congress has not worked to renew GSP due to concern over the lost tariff revenue.    
The Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB) and legislation to renew the Generalized Systems of Preference (GSP) could be attached to The Trade Priorities Act of 2014 to create a broad trade bill for Congressional consideration.

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