(ST&R Trade Report)
The congressional trade agenda for 2012 is beginning to take shape and a number of longstanding issues are on the radar screen. As always, prospects for these measures will depend on a variety of factors, not the least of which is this fall’s presidential and congressional elections.
Observers believe the trade legislation most likely to advance, at least in the near term, is a bill to explicitly allow the federal government to impose countervailing duties on goods imported from non-market economy countries like China. Such a bill, which has yet to be introduced, would effectively reverse a recent court ruling against this practice and allow the U.S. to continue the 24 CV duty orders it currently has in place against Chinese goods. The Obama administration and key lawmakers oppose that ruling and are working to overturn it legislatively as well as through the courts. Click here for more information.
As has often been the case in recent election years, lawmakers will make noise about passing legislation to address the alleged undervaluation of China’s currency. There is always a possibility that such a measure could make it through to the White House, given that one or another version has been approved by the House and/or Senate at different times in recent years, that the U.S. economy continues to struggle and that “unfair foreign competition” from China is frequently cited as a direct cause, and that the annual U.S. trade deficit with China hit an all-time high in 2011. However, any such action would have a significant symbolic effect that goes beyond any actual economic impact and thus it remains an unlikely scenario.
A topic that is anticipated to be taken up this year is extending permanent normal trade relations status to products imported from Russia. Russian goods already have NTR status, meaning they are subject to normal tariffs when imported into the U.S., but that status must be approved each year through a waiver of the so-called Jackson-Vanik Amendment. Permanent NTR must be granted to allow U.S. companies to fully take advantage of the trade liberalization measures Russia will implement as part of its accession to the World Trade Organization, which is expected to take effect in the next few months. Lawmakers do not have an interest in disadvantaging domestic businesses seeking improved access to the Russian market, but the expected debate over PNTR will involve politically sensitive topics such as rule of law and human rights.
Sources indicate that Senate staff have finished a draft of a long-delayed customs reauthorization bill and are working to finalize a few details. Similar legislation is still being crafted in the House. Topics likely to be addressed in these bills are listed in this article.
Other trade-related legislation, such a miscellaneous trade bill to suspend or reduce duties on imported manufacturing inputs and other goods or a measure to provide limited relief from the Lacey Act Amendments of 2008, are only likely to advance to the extent that they can engender bipartisan support.
Finally, below is a list of trade-related bills that have been introduced recently. The texts of these bills are or will be shortly available on the Library of Congress’ Web site.
• S. 2091 – to reform the international tax system of the United States
• H.R. 4005 – to direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to conduct a study and report to Congress on gaps in U.S. port security and a plan to address them
• H.R. 3976 – to provide exporting assistance to small business concerns
• H.R. 3979 – to amend the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States to extend to 2025 the production certificate program that allows refunds of duties on certain articles produced in U.S. insular possessions
• H.R. 3984 – to limit the quantity of arsenic and lead in beverages containing fruit juice pursuant to tolerances under section 406 of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act
• H.R. 3914 – to amend the Export Apple Act to permit the export of apples to Canada in bulk bins without certification by the Department of Agriculture
• S. 2063 – to prohibit the transfer of technology developed using funding provided by the United States government to entities of certain countries
• S. 2067 – to amend the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act with respect to medical device regulation
• H.R. 3880 – to require the imposition of sanctions on foreign financial institutions that are members of an entity that provides services relating to secure communications, electronic funds transfers or cable transfers to the Central Bank of Iran or sanctioned financial institutions
• H.R. 3889 – to amend title 35, United States Code, to provide for an exception from infringement for certain component parts of motor vehicles