Trade Promotion Authority, GSP and AGOA are all included in new legislation

Trade Promotion Authority, GSP and AGOA are all included in new legislation

A package of bills introduced in the House and Senate yesterday (16 April) has sparked hope that a long-delayed trade agenda could finally move forward this year.

The legislation includes Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), the renewal of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), the reauthorisation of trade preference programmes including the African Growth & Opportunity Act (AGOA), trade enforcement legislation and a customs reauthorisation measure.

According to congressional leadership, it is also expected to be marked up in both the House and Senate next week.

The so-called ‘Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015’ (TPA-2015) provides any administration with clear negotiating objectives for US trade agreements, requires robust consultations with Congress and the public, and sets forth an updated process for Congress to consider trade agreements if these requirements are met.

When a trade agreement meets the specified negotiating objectives, and Congress is sufficiently consulted, the bill would allow it to be submitted to Congress for an up-or-down vote within strict timeframes.

However, the TPA bill also creates a new mechanism for the removal of these expedited procedures if, in the judgement of either the House or Senate, the agreement does not meet the established requirements.

For AGOA, the legislation would extend the trade pact for ten years, simplify rules of origin, add notification and reporting requirements, and improve transparency and participation in the AGOA review process.

Another extension would be to the Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement (HOPE) Act and the Haiti Economic Lift Program (HELP), which provide trade benefits for apparel and other products imported from Haiti, through 30 September 2025.

Not surprisingly, the move has been welcomed by US apparel and footwear brands and importers.

"Congressional approval of TPA will be an important precursor toward completion of the pending trade deals with Europe and the Pacific Rim," said Juanita Duggan, president and CEO of the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA).

"Equally important, Congressional consideration of TPA paves the way for renewing expired and expiring trade measures such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP).

"We hope Congress approves these and other measures, which are vital for our members in reducing costs, promoting investment, and supporting trade-based jobs, both in the United States and abroad."

Matt Priest, president of the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA), said the legislation "moves the debate on trade forward" and is "vital to finalising and passing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)."

As for TPA's prospects, Priest added: "In our meetings on the Hill, we have heard from Members who are very supportive of our position, and I know we have some great advocates in Congress for our industry. I am positive we will see this passed, hopefully clearing the way for the conclusion of TPP negotiations soon thereafter."

Likewise, the United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA), said the TPA legislation "is essential for the conclusion of high-standard, 21st-century trade agreements."

It "will allow the Obama Administration to conclude the TPP, a potentially groundbreaking agreement for fashion brands and retailers doing business in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as create ambitious trade policy for the future, such as the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP), a historic trade negotiation with Europe," said Julia Hughes, president of USFIA.

TPP and TTIP are especially important for the US fashion industry, which includes textile and apparel brands, retailers, importers, and wholesalers based in the United States and doing business globally.

"Our members not only import products from around the world, but also sell American fashion design around the world, too," explains Hughes. "By opening new markets in the Asia-Pacific and Europe, these brands and retailers will have new opportunities to create high-quality jobs at home and expand abroad."

Even retailer Gap Inc has shared its views, noting that the TPA legislation "includes significant improvements to the 2002 TPA law and recognises changes in the US economy, such as the prevalence of global value chains to support US jobs.

"The bill also sets negotiating objectives on fair competition with state-owned enterprises, labour and environmental standards, and enhanced procedures to ensure Congressional oversight and public input on US trade negotiations."

Both chambers are now being urged to pass this legislation as soon as possible.

For more insight into what this might mean for TPP, click on the following link: COMMENT: How will TPP emerge from fast-track trade bill?