TAA fight on the horizon
With help from Doug Palmer and Hans von der Burchard
TAA FIGHT ON THE HORIZON? Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said Monday that it’s still possible there could be a TPP vote in the lame-duck session after the election, despite criticisms of the trade model in the presidential election. But more intriguingly, he also said lawmakers might consider improvements to trade adjustment assistance as part of a package including implementing legislation for the Asia-Pacific deal.
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He said the government needs to “pay more attention” to people who are hurt by trade deals and “try to make sure that the programs like [TAA] are actually meaningful in terms of letting them transition into new jobs … rather than just seeing them as a casualty of trade,” Cornyn told reporters after an event on U.S.-India relations.
TAA offers re-training and unemployment benefits for workers whose jobs have been outsourced. When asked if Congress might consider updates to TAA along with TPP implementing legislation, the Texas Republican responded, “Sure.”
“I think there’s really nothing set in stone, and Congress can make further adjustments as necessary in order to build consensus,” he said. “Right now, we’re just going to have to wait and see what happens in the presidential election.” He also said there’s “still a lot that needs to be done” to fix TPP, citing his personal complaints with the level of patent protection for biologics.
Meanwhile, a veteran trade policy specialist vented his frustration over the U.S. government’s failure to help manufacturing workers recover from the trauma of lost jobs. “Trade adjustment assistance is paltry, pathetic, puny,” Bob Vastine, a senior industry fellow at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, said during a discussion on Capitol Hill. “It’s really a patch and I think in a new administration, if we’re going to proceed with a liberal trade policy, we really have to address that issue.”
WHEELING AND DEALING WITH INDIA: Cornyn and fellow Senate India Caucus co-chair Mark Warner have a couple ideas for how to continue developing better trade and investment ties with India. The two senators will introduce legislation this week that would direct the State Department to come up with a strategy to help India join the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and urge other nations to support New Delhi’s bid to join, Cornyn said at the India event.
Warner, meanwhile, said the State Department should be constantly reviewing its “banned list” of exports to determine whether there are products that would be possible to sell to the South Asian country, which has become an increasingly large purchaser of U.S. defense goods.
The Virginia Democrat also said bilateral investment treaty negotiations with India, which have yet to get off the ground due to big divergences in approach, should continue to be “high on the priority list.”
PUBLIC ARGUMENT ON PUBLIC PROCUREMENT: U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and European Commissioner Cecilia Malmström traded barbs on Monday over public procurement policies in relation to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, POLITICO Europe’s Hans von der Burchard reports from Germany.
Speaking on a panel at the Hannover Messe, Froman defended the level of procurement access provided by the U.S., saying, “We have done the analysis … [and] our procurement market is at least as open as it is in Europe.”
“We have bound, on our federal and state level, about 25 percent of our total procurement, and that equates to about $320 billion a year,” he said. “These procurements are completely and totally open to international participation.” European companies do “quite well” in this market, he said. The U.S. could still “do more,” but “we have to start from a good set of facts,” Froman said, suggesting the EU is painting a distorted picture of the U.S.’s public procurement practices.
But Malmström dug in, arguing that Europe is more open and transparent than the U.S. because “we have one system [to handle procurement] for 28 countries, where everything is published in one database in English, and there is no ‘buy Europe,’ no quotas for small- and medium-sized companies.” A commission source was even more direct, arguing U.S. states don’t have harmonized reporting on public expenditures: “It’s all about estimates. … It’s very, very unreliable.”
U.S. INDUSTRY WEIGHS IN ON TTIP SERVICES FIGHT: Meanwhile, a top U.S. services industry official said she is skeptical the TTIP negotiations could be concluded this year because of the large number of tough issues still unresolved.
“There are very difficult challenges, just in the services space, which we think need to be addressed,” Christine Bliss, president of the Coalition of Services Industries, said during a discussion on Capitol Hill. “It’s hard to see how they could be addressed before the end of the year.”
The EU wants “too many exceptions” to protect local service providers from U.S. competition, “particularly in the area of new services, where we want to see [barriers] eliminated,” Bliss said. “We also don’t want to see a carve-out of audio-visuals, particularly with respect to online platforms,” Bliss added, referring to EU attempts to exclude film, television and other media services from the pact.
BUT DON’T EXPECT MUCH ON THAT IN NYC: This week’s TTIP negotiations in New York City will focus mostly on finding agreements in areas where both sides are closer to agreement — most of all, regulatory cooperation, both in terms of good regulatory practices moving forward and specific regulatory agreements in industries like chemicals, medical devices or cars.
AND ON THE CHINA FRONT: Bliss was also guarded on the chances for a near-term conclusion of talks on a U.S.-China Bilateral Investment Treaty. “I think there is quite an internal debate that is going on within China” between those who support an agreement and others fighting to protect the entrenched interests of Chinese state-owned enterprises, she said.
For now, U.S. industry hopes China will make a robust new offer to shift the long-running talks to a higher gear, Bliss said. Vastine said he still believes Beijing would make such an offer because China is a major exporter of capital and knows it needs investment protection. What the leadership needs to do is overcome “the objectors in the ministries and the SOEs” like they did when China joined the World Trade Organization, he said.
CONSERVATIVE GROUPS: MTB = MEEK, TIMID BILL: A pair of conservative groups on Monday criticized the miscellaneous tariff bill reform legislation, crafted by Republican leaders and headed to approval this week in the House, as too timid of a reform. Congress should set its sights on the elimination of all tariffs, rather than require companies to seek temporary waivers for select items every few years, David McIntosh, president of the Club for Growth, and Michael Needham, chief executive officer of Heritage Action for America, say in a joint op-ed in the National Review.
“The House should be bold — use MTB reform to start permanently eliminating tariffs altogether,” McIntosh and Needham write. However, as of Monday, neither group had issued a key vote alert urging members to oppose the bill, and a spokesman for Heritage Action confirmed they had no plans to go that far.
The National Taxpayers Union rushed to defend the bill. “While we’d like to see a bigger, bolder push toward tariff reductions, this is an all-too-rare opportunity for Congress to cut taxes and generate economic growth in a bipartisan fashion,” Brandon Arnold, executive vice president of the group, said in a blog. Click here to read the conservative groups’ critique and here to read NTU’s defense.
TURKISH STEEL COMPANIES PUSH BACK: The Turkish steel industry is upset that it is being accused along with China of unfair trade practices that have led to the lost of U.S. steel industry jobs, Namık Ekinci, chairman of the Turkish Steel Exporters’ Association, said Monday in response to a joint Office of U.S. Trade Representative and Commerce Department hearing earlier this month on global excess steel production capacity.
Turkey’s steel producers also are suffering from excess capacity in China that is depressing prices and are developing their own measures to deal with the threat, Ekinci said. “We are deeply disturbed by the attempts to use the Chinese situation as a pretext to hamper Turkish trade, and accusations that lump Turkey together with China and its unfair trade practices,” he said. “In fact, we resolved to reduce production in light of the global steel outlook, a move we would not have had to take if we were actually receiving subsidies and dumping. Turkey is a country where consumption is higher than production.” To read more, click here.
The Financial Times runs through five reasons why TTIP is difficult to conclude.
The U.S. is pressing Vietnam on the detention of political opponents, ahead of Obama’s visit to the country, ABC News reports.
U.S. officials will travel to New Zealand to learn about how the country is implementing TPP, according to Radio New Zealand.
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