ANNOUNCED AS TEMPORARYNo
Import-related non-tariff measure, nes
Representative Michael Michaud (Democrat of Maine) introduced on June 24, 2009 the 'Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment (TRADE) Act' H.R.3012. The bill would mandate reviews of all international trade agreements currently in force, establish new standards and requirements for future trade agreements, require new labor standards, and impose higher congressional oversight authority for any trade agreements. While there is little realistic chance that this specific bill will be enacted into law, efforts may be made to attach some of its provisions (either in their current or in a modified form) to any other major trade legislation that might be considered in the 111th Congress (2009-2010). That could be the case, for example, if the Obama administration makes a formal request that Congress make a new grant of trade promotion authority (also known as the 'fast track').
The fact that the bill has 106 bipartisan cosponsors increases the potential leverage of its sponsors in any coming negotiations over the terms of new trade legislation. Those sponsors amount to nearly one-fourth of the 435 members of the House of Representatives, and include several influential Democrats (including 9 committee chairs and 45 subcommittee chairs). It also represents a considerable expansion from the 110th Congress, when the same bill attracted 74 cosponsors.
Notably absent from this list of cosponsors are House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (Democrat of New York) or Trade Subcommittee Chairman Sander Levin (Democrat of Michigan). Rangel and Levin are co-sponsors of a separate bill, the Trade Enforcement Act (H.R.496), that they and nine other co-sponsors introduced on January 14, 2009. The Rangel-Levin bill covers some of the same territory as the TRADE Act, but in a less extreme form (see the Global Trade Alert entry related to this measure). Chairman Levin has made clear that he will take a close look at the TRADE Act, but has not announced whether he will schedule a hearing on the bill.
H.R.3012 has four major proposals:
Review: Directs the Government Accountability Office to conduct a comprehensive review of the major trade agreements, including the WTO agreements and the free trade agreements with North America (NAFTA) and Central America (CAFTA). The review, intended to examine the basic 'model' on which U.S. trade agreements have been based, must be completed before new trade negotiations or congressional consideration of pending pacts can go forward. The review must include an assessment of economic outcomes, as well as various security, human rights, social, and environmental indicators. The report must also examine how current trade agreement models measure up to these criteria.
What Must and Must Not Be in All Agreements: A detailed description of the key provisions that must be included in all future U.S. trade agreements and what aspects of the current model must henceforth be excluded. The bill mandates that all future trade agreements incorporate specific exceptions with respect to environmental and labor standards, food and product safety, agriculture, trade remedy laws, human rights, federalism, safeguard and currency anti-manipulation rules, and national security. This section also lists what aspects of the NAFTA-WTO model cannot be included in future deals, including bans on Buy American and anti-sweat shop or environmental procurement policies; new rights and privileges for foreign investors to promote offshoring and expose domestic health and environmental laws to attacks in foreign tribunals; service sector privatization and deregulation requirements; and special protections for the U.S. pharmaceutical industry to limit affordable access to drugs.
Renegotiation: The bill requires that the president to submit a plan to renegotiate major trade agreements currently in force (including WTO agreements, NAFTA, and CAFTA) to incorporate all of the required provisions listed above, and exclude all provisions listed above that cannot be included. The bill establishes a special congressional 'super committee' chaired by the Ways and Means and Finance Committee chairs and including the chairs and ranking members of other committees that have jurisdiction over issues that must be included in or excluded from trade agreements.
Replacing Fast Track: The bill lays out criteria for a new mechanism to replace Fast Track negotiating authority. The new mechanism gives Congress sole authority using 'readiness criteria' to select future negotiating partners; mandatory negotiating objectives based on the bill's criteria of what must be and must not be in future trade pacts; and the requirements that Congress must certify that the objectives were met, and then vote on an agreement before it can be signed. In the upper chamber, Senator Sherrod Brown (Democrat of Ohio) plans to introduce a companion bill.
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