2014 Trade Agenda & 2013 Annual Report Released

Recently, the Obama administration released to Congress its 2014 Trade Policy Agenda and 2013 Annual Report, which describes steps the administration intends to take to “promote open markets to enable additional job-supporting U.S. exports and sustained economic growth.” The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) is responsible for the preparation of the report.

With one year left before the 2015 target date of the National Export Initiative (NEI) for doubling U.S. exports from their 2009 levels and adding up to two million additional U.S. jobs to the economy, the White House has been making a concerted push on the trade front during President Barack Obama’s second term. In particular, officials have been advocating for advances in both bilateral and regional trade deals, as well as on the multilateral stage.

In announcing the report, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said “President Obama’s trade strategy for 2014 is driven by a commitment to create jobs, promote growth, and strengthen the middle class through the creation of new export opportunities for American farmers, workers, and businesses.”

According to the USTR report, the priority issues for 2014 will include concluding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)agreement talks, advancing negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) with the European Union (EU), and moving ahead with efforts within the World Trade Organization on information technology, services and environmental goods. The administration is also working with Congress to support “broad, bipartisan passage” of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) to guide current and future negotiations and ensure the completion of trade agreements.

TPP is moving closer to completion, as trade ministers from TPP member countries recently met in Singapore for a series of intensive negotiations aimed at bringing the talks closer to completion. However, while significant progress had been made, no deal was announced as there is still some divide over market access issues. The report reaffirms the deal will be concluded in 2014. The White House report does not provide a similar timeline for T-TIP, instead, the report states that U.S. negotiators expect to make significant progress with the EU and plans to maintain a similar pace for the talks as in 2013.

The USTR document also calls for the renewal of TPA, which expired in 2007. It allows the executive branch to submit completed trade pacts to Congress for a straight up-or-down vote, without amendments. It also outlines what the U.S. negotiating objectives will be in developing trade deals, as well as what level of engagement the Office of the USTR will have with Congress and the public. “To facilitate the conclusion, approval, and implementation of our market-opening negotiating initiatives, we are working with Congress to support broad bipartisan passage of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA),” the report said.

The report makes a point of highlighting trade’s potential to boost the U.S. economy. Data from 2013 found that every $1 billion in U.S. goods exports helped support approximately 5,400 U.S. jobs and that figure is nearly 5,900 for exports of services.

Finally, the report points out that more than half of U.S. imports provide inputs to value-added production in the U.S. and that modern supply chains for many U.S. businesses are “truly global,” with inputs that can cross borders multiple times before a finished product is completed. It is therefore “critical,” the report states, that the U.S. work to “improve the efficiency of global trade with our key trading partners, in terms of both exports and imports.”