USTR Releases the President’s 2015 Trade Policy Agenda

Last week the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released President Barack Obama’s 2015 Trade Policy Agenda. As the lead agency responsible for developing and implementing the President’s trade policy initiatives, the USTR sends the Trade Policy Agenda in conjunction with the Annual Report on trade developments over the past year.

Outlined in the 2015 report are the president’s arguments for the need for advancing trade agreements, including their economic benefits, importance to America’s position in the global economy, and the negative consequences of inaction. It also dedicates sections spotlighting manufacturing, agriculture, small business and Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), formally called “fast-track” authority. The report highlights TPA as a critical tool for Congress to update and assert its role in trade policy and benefits to current and future negotiations.

According to the report, the trade agreements the Obama Administration are currently negotiating support small businesses by: 1) Removing barriers to exports by cutting tariffs and reducing non-tariff barriers; 2) Simplifying trade by including meaningful trade facilitation provisions, creating simplified and expedited customs rules, and applying strong and common rules of origin; and 3) Facilitating small business engagement with global markets by promoting e-commerce and digital trade, and ensuring that provisions support SMEs.

Passing TPA is a key priority of the president’s trade agenda which he hopes to wrap up before leaving office in two years. In recent weeks, the White House has been increasing its efforts to win bipartisan approval of TPA by reaching out to members—particularly Democratic leaders—who have expressed skepticism to granting the president the power to negotiate trade pacts. Meanwhile, leaders comprised of freshman members and former lawmakers, as well as top presidential economic advisers from both parties have sent letters calling on Congress to give President Obama TPA.

These letters come as the leadership of the Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan  (R-Wis.) continue talks over details of a TPA bill, which could be introduced within the next month. Within those discussions Ranking Member Wyden has suggested the inclusion of provisions that would make it easier for lawmakers to rescind fast-track if Congress disapproves of details in a trade pact. Those in support of TPA are concerned that such provisions would make it too easy for Congress to strip fast track authority and could be detrimental to the confidence our trading partners have in negotiating future trade agreements.

To read the 2015 Trade Policy Agenda, please click here.