On April 16, several pieces of key legislation were introduced that set the stage for a Bipartisan, Bicameral International Trade Package. Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) along with Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) introduced long-awaited trade legislation to reauthorize Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) and renew several trade preference and liberalization programs. TPA expired in 2007 and is necessary for the Obama Administration to move forward and conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations.
The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA-2015) proposes granting the President TPA, commonly referred to as Fast Track Authority, which would allow him to negotiate trade agreements that Congress can approve with a simple up-or-down vote, removing the threat of amendments. The legislation also outlines specific guidelines for negotiators to follow during trade negotiations. If Congress determines that the guidelines were not met, members can vote to remove TPA and open up the trade agreement to amendments.
In addition to TPA-2015, the AGOA Extension and Enhancement Act of 2015 was also introduced. The legislation proposes:
- Extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) for ten years through September 30, 2025
- Reauthorization of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) through December 31, 2017
- Eligibility for refunds of duties for GSP eligible goods imported from August 1, 2013 until 30 days after the date of enactment of the legislation when a valid claim is made with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
- Extension of the Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement (HOPE) and Haiti Economic Lift Program (HELP) programs, which provide duty-free benefits for apparel and other products imported from Haiti
A mark-up of the trade legislation is expected to occur next week in both the Senate Committee on Finance and the House Committee on Ways and Means. Additionally, House and Senate staff has indicated that a customs reauthorization and trade enforcement measure is still in process and may be packaged to move with some of the trade legislation.