Congress Listened to WCIT When Drafting the TPA Bill

If I had a dollar for every time Congress did exactly what WCIT told them to do… Well, I’m not sure that I’d have all that much money, but I’d be at least $1 richer after this month’s introduction in the House and Senate of the Trade Priorities Act of 2014 (the bill that authorizes Trade Promotion Authority). I say that because the TPA bill includes almost all of WCIT’s priorities for TPA legislation!

I like to think that one of the members of the Washington Congressional delegation walked our factsheet straight to Congressional leadership and demanded that all of our criteria be included…or at least that the Senate and House saw that WCIT is so smart that our thoughts were undeniably the right approach. Or else it’s just a huge coincidence. We’ll never know, I guess, but whatever the case, it just goes to show that WCIT is on top of our trade policy game.

As many of you loyal State of Trade readers know, TPA is vital to important trade liberalization efforts like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) that will benefit Washington state’s international trade economy. TPA provides U.S. trade negotiators with Congress’ negotiating objectives and priorities for new free trade agreements, and it increases transparency by requiring the Administration to consult with Congress extensively throughout the negotiations. Without TPA it will be difficult, if not impossible, for new free trade agreements to pass, and Congress will miss out on the chance to craft high-quality agreements that will raise standards for global trade.

To give you an idea of how smart WCIT is  how similar the bill is to WCIT’s recommendations, I thought it would be useful to go over each of WCIT’s TPA criteria and see how the Trade Priorities Act of 2014 measures up (and it does a pretty good job!):

WCIT’s Priorities for TPA Legislation: Trade Priorities Act of 2014
 Expand Market Access The Trade Priorities Act includes a plethora of negotiating objectives “to obtain open, equitable and reciprocal market access.” Everything from quota and tariff elimination to increased transparency and implementation of science-based sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards is in this bill.
 Reduce restrictions on foreign direct  investment (FDI) The TPA bill includes an entire section on foreign investment with strong objectives to eliminate barriers to cross-border investment and protect U.S. investors from unfair treatment.
 Improve intellectual property rights (IP) Updated provisions address cyber theft, protect trade secrets, and facilitate digital trade. In addition, negotiating objectives call for trade agreements to provide a high standard of IP protection similar to that found in U.S. law.
 Harmonize regulations and customs procedures The TPA bill includes new and updated provisions to improve regulatory practices and regulatory coherence and compatibility, strengthen transparency in regulations and standards-development processes, and ensure that government regulatory transparency.
 Strengthen global supply chains For the first time, the TPA bill encourages U.S. participation in global value chains and ensures trade agreements reflect the increasingly interrelated and multi-sectoral nature of trade and investment activity.
 Strengthen trade remedy laws The bill preserves the ability of the United States to enforce rigorously its trade laws, and directs the President to secure strong dispute settlement mechanisms in U.S. trade agreements.
 Eliminate practices by state-owned enterprises  (SOEs) that distort the market A new negotiating objective is included in the bill that calls for eliminating trade distortions and unfair competition from SOEs and ensuring that they act based solely on commercial considerations.
 Improve cross-border data flows The TPA bill establishes new goods and services objectives for the digital age, updating objectives to facilitate digital trade.
 Ensure that all trade agreements meet 21st   century standards The bill requires trading partners to adopt, maintain and not waive or derogate from measures implementing internationally recognized labor standards and multilateral environmental agreements to which the United States is a party, with the same dispute settlement and remedies as for other enforceable obligations.

As you can see, this bill really does seem to be modeled from WCIT’s recommendations. It covers the bases to ensure that future trade agreements will benefit Washington’s manufacturers, retailers, farmers & ranchers and service providers, driving job creation in our state. As WCIT ramps up our advocacy on TPA, we’d love to have you involved – so let us know if you would like to help strengthen our voice in support of TPA.

And hopefully we’ll be saying “Congress listened to WCIT” a lot more in the coming months as there is movement on trade policy issues ranging from reauthorizing the Ex-Im Bank to reforming the Harbor Maintenance Tax. We look forward to working with you to make it all happen!

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