December Legislative Update
December 23, 2014

Key Trade Legislation Pushed to 114th Congress

The 113th Congress is poised to wrap up its legislative business this year without passing any major trade bills.  It is anticipated that this unfinished business will be considered in the new Congress, under the direction of new leadership and a Republican-controlled Congress.  While details on priorities and specific timetables remain a work in progress, an active trade agenda is widely expected in the 114th Congress.

The following will be among the priority trade bills next year: 

  • Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).  Negotiators and the business community say TPA is necessary not only to finalize ongoing trade talks -- including the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership -- but also to invigorate the entire trade agenda.  Legislation introduced last year by then-Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) would grant such authority to the President.  Of the three original co-sponsors, only Sen. Hatch will remain next year.  Figuring out a path forward for TPA will be key for the other pending bills.
  •  Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA).  This program, which provides benefits to workers displaced by trade, expires at the end of 2014.  Extension and expansion of the program has been supported by some Democrats, including Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who is a member of the Senate Finance Committee.  Sen. Brown recently introduced S. 2964, which would extend TAA through 2020.  Sen. Brown is also trying to include consideration of TAA with TPA.
  •  Generalized System of Preferences (GSP).  This program, which provides developing countries with preferential access to the U.S. market, expired in 2013.  There have been various procedural and political problems preventing stand-alone consideration of a bill that would renew this program.   One view to overcoming these obstacles is to include GSP as part of a larger trade package, such as with TPA.  
  • African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).  This is a preference program, similar to GSP, that benefits African countries and includes duty-free access to the United States for certain textiles and apparel.  AGOA will expire in 2015, but beneficiaries are urging for a long-term extension, well before expiration, to ensure predictability and continued use of the program.  Apart from extending AGOA, there is also some Congressional interest in reform. 
  • Miscellaneous Tariff  Bill (MTB).   This process enables Congress to temporarily reduce or suspend duties on imported finished products or intermediate goods that are not produced or otherwise available in the United States.  Approximately 600 MTB provisions expired in early 2013.  Since that time, Congress has been unable to extend existing provisions or enact new ones that have been vetted and approved through a rigorous inter-agency review process.  The path forward for MTB remains very unclear. 
  • Customs Reauthorization.  Bills reauthorizing U.S. Customs and Border Protection have been introduced in the past three Congresses with no action.  Versions of the bills presently under consideration would include provisions addressing trade enforcement and simplification of duty drawback procedures.  Work on outstanding issues related to Customs reauthorization will continue next year, with the goal of enactment either alone or along with TPA. 


New Committee Leadership for Senate Finance and House Ways and Means

The Democrats’ losses to the Republicans in the midterm elections -- a net eight seats and its majority in the Senate along with a net 12 seats in the House of Representatives – has resulted in a number of changes in the leadership and membership of the key trade Committees for the 114th Congress. 

On the Senate side, current Committee on Finance Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) will exchange roles, with Sen. Hatch becoming Chairman of the Full Committee and Sen. Wyden becoming Ranking Member of the Full Committee.  There has not been confirmation on the new leadership for the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs and Global Competitiveness, although it is projected to change due to the Republicans gaining the majority.  Currently, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) is the Chairwoman and Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) is the Ranking Member.    

In the House, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) will assume leadership of the Committee on Ways and Means from Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) following the Chairman’s decision not to seek reelection for office.  Incumbent House Subcommittee on Trade Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) has been named chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence.  Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH), who previously led the Committee’s Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures, will take over as the next Trade Subcommittee Chairman.  Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI) and Charles Rangel (D-NY) will both retain their positions as the leading Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee and the leading Democrat on the Trade Subcommittee, respectively.

Four Republicans -- Reps. George Holding (R-NC), Patrick Meehan (R-PA), Kristi Noem (R-SD), and Jason Smith (R-MO) -- will be joining the House Committee on Ways and Means as new members. 

Marisa Lago Nominated to be Deputy U.S. Trade Representative

President Obama has nominated Marisa Lago for Deputy U.S. Trade Representative.  In this capacity, Ms. Lago will work on issues relating to labor, the environment, as well as those pertaining to Africa and the Western Hemisphere.  Ms. Lago is currently the Assistant Secretary for International Markets and Development at the Department of Treasury, as well as the Acting U.S. Director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.  In the past, she has served as Chief Executive Officer and President of Empire State Development, Global Head of Compliance for Citigroup’s corporate and investment bank, and led the Office of International Affairs for the Securities and Exchange Commission.  Born to Spanish immigrants, she is a native of New York and a graduate of Cooper Union and Harvard Law School.  If confirmed, Ms. Lago will hold the title with the rank of Ambassador.  

For more on Marisa Lago’s nomination, please click here.