Legislative Update
July 30, 2013

Ambassador Froman Testifies on President Obama’s Trade Policy Agenda

Ambassador Michael Froman, in his new role as United States Trade Representative, testified on Thursday, July 18, before the House Committee on Ways and Means regarding President Obama’s agenda on current trade issues. The hearing followed the prior day’s announcement that Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI), Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI), Trade Subcommittee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), and Trade Subcommittee Ranking Member Charles Rangel (D-NY) had introduced the bipartisan measures H.R. 2708 for the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill and H.R. 2709 to renew the Generalized System of Preferences.

Ambassador Froman reaffirmed the Administration’s commitment to working with Members of Congress in passing Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). Ambassador Froman called TPA a “critical tool,” stating that all but one trade agreement has been approved under some form of TPA and that’s “likely to be the most productive way to move forward.” In the meantime, however, the Administration planned to operate “in accordance with longstanding procedures” to consult with Congress during the ongoing trade negotiations.

Japan will officially enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations next week, and while some Members expressed skepticism about Japan’s entry, Ambassador Froman reiterated the Administration’s goal to conclude TPP by the end of the year, characterizing it as “ambitious but doable.” Given the Ambassador’s statement that there have been no agreements on any “upfront exclusions” and that “everything is on the table,” sensitive issues such as autos, agriculture, and insurance still need to be resolved.

With respect to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP), Ambassador Froman noted that the first round of negotiations were held last week, but did not give any further indications as to the timeline. He did, however, convey the detrimental effect the sequestration has had on the staff at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, which has forced the agency to make “tough decisions” on the enforcement cases and negotiations they pursue.

Currency was another heavily discussed topic. Both Chairman Camp and Ranking Member Levin emphasized the importance of including terms addressing currency concerns in TPP and T-TIP. Citing precedent, Ranking Member Levin also suggested pairing currency legislation with TPA as a vehicle to move both issues.

For a full transcript of Ambassador Froman’s testimony, see here

Senate Finance Committee Considers Nomination for ITC Commissioner

On Thursday, July 18, the Senate Finance Committee held a Full Committee hearing to consider the nomination of F. Scott Kieff to the International Trade Commission (ITC). The Committee also considered the nomination of two judges to the Tax Court. Members present included Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Senator John Thune (R-SD).

Mr. Kieff is a professor at The George Washington University Law School and a Ray and Louis Knowles Senior Fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, where he directs the Project on Commercializing Innovation and serves on the Property Rights Task Force. He is former member of the Patent Public Advisory Committee of the United States Patent and Trademark Office and previously worked in the appellate mediation program of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Mr. Kieff earned a bachelor’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.

For more information on the hearing see here.

Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Holds Hearing on U.S.-Brazil Trade and Investment Relationship

On Wednesday, June 12, the House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee held a hearing on U.S.-Brazil trade relations. The hearing focused on evaluating the trade and investment relationship between the two countries, as well as examining the opportunities and challenges in furthering bilateral engagement. Representatives from Johnson & Johnson, the consulting firm McLarty Associates, the electricity generation business AES Corporation, and the underground equipment company Vermeer Solutions testified.

Members on the Committee, both Democrat and Republican, agreed that engaging Brazil in trade would be a means to address our longstanding issues with the country, including high tariffs, currency manipulation, subsidies, and a complex tax structure. Members also cited opportunities in agriculture, energy, and business. There was talk of helping to improve and modernize Brazil’s regulatory agencies and customs system.

Trade Subcommittee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) expressed his belief in the importance of uniting the multiple dialogues that the United States currently participates in with Brazil, and announced his plans to introduce a bill to that effect. As of press time, the bill has not been introduced. To see a full list of the witnesses and their submitted testimony, please click here.

 

For more information about the contents of this newsletter, or about Kelley Drye's International Trade Practice, please contact practice group chair Kathleen Cannon or partner Paul Rosenthal, who acts as editor of this publication.