TPP something Clinton can support?

With help from Victoria Guida and Doug Palmer

VILSACK DESCRIBES TPP AS MEETING CLINTON’S CRITERIA: If Hillary Clinton wants increased jobs, higher wages and improved national security to be part of any U.S. trade deal, then by Tom Vilsack’s logic, she should support the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

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“Well, let me answer it this way and not necessarily in response to a question that’s posed based on what Secretary Clinton’s criteria is,” the agriculture secretary said in an interview with Pro Trade’s Doug Palmer ahead of a trip to Japan and Vietnam today. “I look at the [American] Farm Bureau evaluation from an agriculture perspective, and what that evaluation tells me is that exports will increase and farmer income will increase.”

Vilsack, a close political ally of Clinton, avoided directly challenging his former Cabinet colleague on the trade deal, which the former secretary of state opposes for reasons that include the lack of enforceable currency provisions and auto content rules she says are too weak to prevent benefits to non-TPP countries like China.

But Clinton also has set general criteria for trade agreements that match the Obama administration’s arguments for the TPP pact. “I will say ‘no’ to new trade agreements unless they create American jobs, raise wages and improve our national security,” Clinton reiterated this week in response to a questionnaire from the Pennsylvania Fair Trade Coalition. Read the rest of Doug’s story.

IT’S THURSDAY, APRIL 21! Welcome to Morning Trade, where you host is subbing for our crew of very talented — and very busy — trade reporters. Got some trade news to share? Send us a line at, or

CUSTOMS SHINDIG POSTPONED: Trade policy enthusiasts will have to find something else to do this afternoon: the Senate Finance Committee postponed its hearing on implementation of the new customs law, which was scheduled to feature Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske, until further notice.

MTB MARCHING TOWARD (RE)BIRTH: The final piece of last year’s raft of trade bills cleared the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday, giving U.S. business groups hope that they’ll get a break from tariffs on hard-to-find manufacturing items.

The panel gave voice-vote approval to the bill (H.R. 4923), which would overhaul the process for selecting tariff waivers for inclusion in the miscellaneous tariff bill package. Under the legislation, the U.S. International Trade Commission, rather than lawmakers, would vet petitions from businesses asking for tariff reductions — a legislative work-around to avoid running afoul of the House’s earmark ban.

Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, who sponsored the legislation along with ranking Democrat Sander Levin and several other committee members, said he’s expecting the bill to move quickly, though he wouldn’t say whether it had enough support to advance under suspension of the rules. “I feel like we’re lining up pretty strong support going forward,” Brady told reporters after the committee reported out the legislation.

Read House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office’s positive take on the bill here:

BUSINESSES BOOSTER MTB: More than 200 trade groups and companies urged Congress to pass the MTB overhaul bill quickly, saying in a letter that U.S. manufacturers have faced annual tariffs of nearly $750 million since the last MTB expired in 2012, “undermining American competitiveness and the ability of these companies to retain and create manufacturing jobs in the United States.”

The American Chemistry Council, American Farm Bureau Federation, Biotechnology Innovation Organization, National Council of Textile Organizations and Outdoor Industry Association were among the signees of the letter, which was organized by the National Association of Manufacturers.

TRADE SECRETS BILL TEED UP IN HOUSE: In other legislative news, a bill to crack down on trade secret theft is close to becoming law. The House Judiciary Committee reported out the measure (S. 1890) with bipartisan support Wednesday, and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said the chamber will vote on the measure next week, Pro Tech’s Kate Tummarello reports. The bill passed the Senate earlier this month 87-0. The House companion (H.R. 3326) has 156 cosponsors at last count.

The legislation would fulfill a TPP provision requiring countries to ensure companies have the “legal means” to prevent trade secret theft. The pact also requires countries to put in place criminal remedies for such theft, which the U.S. already has at the federal level. Instituting a uniform federal approach to civil enforcement of trade secret theft could also make it easier for the U.S. to negotiate in that area in future trade deals; business groups on both sides of the Atlantic have expressed an interest in covering civil trade secret theft cases in TTIP.

U.S. DAIRY NERVOUSLY WATCHING CANADA: A Wisconsin-based dairy company on Wednesday called on the Obama administration to “publicly reject” new Canadian policies that it fears will shut down its sales to that country. In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Secretary Vilsack, the president and CEO of Grassland Dairy Products cite a new Canadian milk pricing policy that “intentionally discriminates against the use of imports,” as well as proposed changes to the country’s cheese standards “designed to limit U.S. ultra-filtered milk sales.” The company executives say those two policies could lead to a loss of $100 million in exports.

The letter comes as the dairy industry has cautiously endorsed the TPP with the caveat that Canada must make good on its commitment to provide the limited new market access it promised.

OBAMA WANTS HIGH-FIVE FROM BIG FOUR ON TTIP: President Barack Obama’s stop in Hanover, Germany, Monday will include a meeting with the leaders of Europe’s four largest economies to discuss the status of U.S.-EU trade talks, which simultaneously will be entering their 13th round in New York City.

The discussion with French President Francois Hollande, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron and the host, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, will also focus heavily on joint counterterrorism efforts and the need to share information more effectively, the White House said.

The United States and the European Union are striving to wrap TTIP up this year, but time is running out for the two sides to resolve difficult political issues without more of a push from the top.

Obama also plans to stop at the Hannover Messe, Europe’s largest industrial trade fair, on April 24 and 25, and POLITICO Europe Brief reporter Ben Oreskes will be there on the ground. Europe Brief will also put out a special Sunday edition on April 24. Let Ben know if you’ll be there:

SIEMENS EXEC: TRADE FAIR COULD BE ‘WATERSHED’ FOR U.S., EU: Siemens USA CEO Eric Spiegel believes the trade fair could be a “watershed moment,” where Merkel and Obama play up the huge steps the two countries have taken to revive manufacturing, Europe Brief reports.

But he’s a little more muted in his hopes for TTIP. “I don’t think anything is going to happen in the near term,” he told Europe Brief. “There is a lot of pushback, it seems, on both sides of the aisle around trade, and maybe trade has come to symbolize some of this anger we see out there about taking away jobs.”

Spiegel pushed back against the anti-trade messages dominating the U.S. primary season and significant opposition to free trade deals in Europe, arguing the U.S. and the EU account for the lion’s share of the industrialized world’s exports. “This is a time to take advantage of what we can do if we harmonize things between the EU and U.S., and we can leverage that to take advantage of the growth that’s going to occur around the world,” he said. “Otherwise those economies are going to take advantage of the growth in their own markets, and the U.S. and the EU are going to lose out on tremendous growth opportunities.”

ALUMINUM INDUSTRY, WORKERS DIVIDED ON OVERCAPACITY: The United Steelworkers’ push to slap a 50 percent duty on aluminum imports to prevent global overcapacity from causing more harm to U.S. companies hasn’t won over the aluminum industry just yet.

“The overcapacity issue … requires urgent attention by the U.S. government,” Heidi Brock, head of the Aluminum Association, told reporters at a press conference in Miami, where the group was meeting. “What the right tool is and what the right path is for that is very complex.”

The steelworkers union filed a petition this week asking for emergency duties on primary aluminum imports from around the world, blaming China’s excess capacity for depressing global prices and the loss of the more than 6,000 U.S. jobs. But Canada, not China, is by far the biggest foreign supplier of primary aluminum to the United States, accounting for about 66 percent of U.S. imports.

“That’s part of what we need to very carefully understand: the impact of the petition on the various supply chains,” Brock said. “That’s why we want to take some time in carefully reviewing this petition.”

USW SOOTHES CANADIAN WORRIES: But the United Steelworkers say Canada shouldn’t be worried. The petition specifically requests a “capped tariff,” meaning the duty would only apply to aluminum sold below a certain price, which would be determined by the ITC as “sustainable for the domestic industry” for each grade of aluminum.

“The goal here is to restore prices, not impose tariffs,” USW President Leo Gerard said in a statement to POLITICO. “If a foreign producer sells at that price, they will also help enhance their own profitability. If they chose to sell at the depressed prices caused by Chinese overcapacity, then the U.S. government will collect any tariffs authorized by the president. That’s up to the producer. I know what I would do if I were them.” Gerard reiterated that global overcapacity was “primarily fueled by China” and called for international negotiations to resolve the issue.

CONAWAY ANGRY OVER COTTON: House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway backed up the National Cotton Council on Wednesday in its criticisms of new Turkish anti-dumping duties on U.S. cotton fiber. He called the duties “blatant retaliation,” adding that the procedure violated World Trade Organization rules. “The findings are baseless, and the duties should be dropped immediately,” he said.

But it’s not just Turkey he’s mad at. “Just last week, China announced it will start selling off government-owned stockpiles, a result of their reckless policy that has depressed world cotton prices and that continues to hang over the market,” the Texas Republican said. “Add to that the fact that India’s minimum support price and input subsidies have resulted in India topping China as the world’s largest producer.” Cotton growers, he said, are “under assault.”


China’s state-run media is overlooking Donald Trump’s threats of a trade war and embracing the candidate for his willingness to undercut U.S. alliances in the region, which pro-Beijing writers see as a strategic opportunity, The Daily Beast reports:

Maine Rep. Bruce Poliquin says that after reviewing the thousands of pages of the TPP, he has concluded the pact is bad for the state, Maine public radio says:

President Obama is expected to warn during his visit to London that Brexit would endanger Britain’s special relationship with the United States, The Guardian reports:

India has appealed the World Trade Organization’s Appellate Body to dismiss a lower panel’s ruling striking down New Delhi’s local content requirements for solar cells, Livemint says:

Reuters opines about the clash of economic ideologies behind the steel spat with China — and questions whether a trade war is looming:

UPI analyzes the sad state of U.S.-Russia trade and the danger it poses to small and medium-sized businesses:

The Diplomat calls TPP a win for Vietnam’s workers:

Harley-Davidson’s CEO is all vroom-vroom about TPP, telling Fox Business Network, “The big opportunity for Harley, growth-wise, is in Asia, and a lot of the work with the TPP addresses some of the barriers that are in the way of our growth in Asia”:

THAT’S ALL FOR MORNING TRADE! See you again soon! In the meantime, drop the team a line: and @ABehsudi; and @vtg2; and @tradereporter; and @mjkorade; and and @JsonHuffman. You can also follow @POLITICOPro and @Morning_Trade.

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