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Senate Completes Action on SFIA-Backed Trade Bills, House Up Next

Date: 5/27/15

On May 22 the Senate passed the trade promotion authority (TPA) bill (H.R. 1314) in a 62-37 vote.  TPA is important because it is a practical necessity to securing congressional approval of the soon-to-be-completed TransPacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and a later U.S.-EU TTIP agreement, as well as any other major trade agreement such as a possible Doha Round WTO agreement. 

Before passing the TPA bill, the Senate defeated several problematic amendments, including a  currency manipulation amendment that would have drawn a presidential veto.  It proved not possible for Senate leaders to bring up an agreed compromise fix to a provision on human trafficking which, as currently written, would preclude TPA’s fast-track provisions from being used for Malaysia and, hence, for a TPP agreement.  But Senate and House leaders believe they have identified a way to fix the provision without having to bring the TPA bill back to the Senate for a second vote.

The House will turn to the TPA bill, which now also contains an extension of trade adjustment assistance, after it returns from its Memorial Day recess on June 1. The House also will be taking up the Senate-passed trade preferences bill (H.R. 1295) and the customs reauthorization/trade enforcement bill (H.R. 644).

As reported, the trade preferences bill would extend the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), which provides duty-free treatment for 140 beneficiary developing countries for nearly all dutiable categories of sporting goods equipment, until December 31, 2017.  The extension would be retroactive to the program’s July 31, 2013 expiration.  The bill would also extend the African Growth & Opportunity Act and two Haiti-specific preferential programs.  In addition, the Senate-passed bill includes a provision that would allow the filing of petitions requesting that travel goods (including such items as gym bags) of textiles or leather be added to GSP eligibility, and provisions reclassifying water-resistant performance footwear and recreational performance outerwear.

The customs reauthorization/trade enforcement bill (H.R. 644) addresses various aspects of U.S. Customs & Border Protection’s trade facilitation and trade enforcement responsibilities.  The Senate-passed version of the bill includes, inter alia, a provision that would establish a revised miscellaneous tariff bill (MTB) process that would originate with the filing of duty suspension requests with the U.S. International Trade Commission.  The provision is intended to address the concerns of some Members that duty suspensions are akin to earmarks.


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