June 8, 2015

U.S. House Poised To Take Up Trade Legislation

As South Korea and China finalized a trade deal last week, lawmakers in the U.S. House prepared to take up legislation to reauthorize Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), or “fast track” authority. (Most analysts believe Congress must renew TPA before several Asian nations will agree to the final Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement the Obama administration is currently negotiating.) 

The vote to pass TPA, which is expected to come later this month, will be a close one in the House. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has said she expects no more than 18 Democrats to support TPA renewal and Republicans are expected to lose a few dozen members of its caucus. (Some Republicans are concerned that TPA gives too much power to the executive branch.) Though he said House leaders would still need some Democratic votes to pass TPA, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) argued they will not lose as many GOP votes as the media has reported. 

Indeed, Politico reported last week that more than two dozen Republican House members previously thought to oppose the bill have said they would consider supporting TPA if House leaders agree that 1) Export-Import Bank reauthorization will not be attached to any other bill (the charter for the bank expires on July 31); 2) that rank-and-file lawmakers will get more power to reject future trade deals; and 3) that Trade Adjustment Assistance be separated from the trade legislation. If Republican leaders agree to these demands, it would significantly increase the likelihood that TPA will pass in the House. 

Meanwhile, Republican leaders also have not yet committed to bringing up other trade-related legislation, including an important customs bill, at the same time as TPA. MSCI is hopeful that they will commit to that strategy. As our colleagues at the American Iron and Steel Institute have noted, it is possible that legislation offered by Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL) and Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), H.R. 2523, the American Trade Enforcement Effectiveness Act, could be added to the customs bill the House may consider alongside TPA. H.R. 2523 would reform U.S. antidumping and countervailing duty laws to make them more effective and efficient. Specifically, as AISI explains, the provisions in H.R. 2523 would:

  • Clarify the material injury standard in trade remedy cases to ensure it is consistent with the original intent of Congress;
  • Enhance the Commerce Department’s ability to address non-cooperative foreign companies and governments in trade remedy proceeding;
  • Ensure the Commerce Department’s ability to calculate a trade remedy when foreign prices or costs that have been distorted; and
  • Clarify the Commerce Department’s authority regarding the selection of which foreign companies to investigate.

The Senate passed similar legislative language last month when it considered its customs bill. With AISI, MSCI urges its members to contact their representatives to urge them to support H.R. 2523, the American Trade Enforcement Effectiveness Act.