U.S. Congress “Mockingly” Moves Trade Bills

On Thursday, July 7, the House Ways and Means and the Senate Finance Committees held their reviews, called ““mock’ mark ups,” of the three bills to implement the Korea, Colombia, and Panama Free Trade Agreements (FTAs).  Both the House and Senate bills to implement the Colombia FTA include renewal of GSP and ATPA through July 31, 2013. The bills also make the renewal retroactive back to when GSP (and ATPA) expired. This is a common renewal approach to GSP so that importers will be able to get refunded the tariffs that they have paid from January 1, 2011 (Feb. 12, 2011 for ATPA) through two weeks after the President signs the approved bill. Different this year is that importers will not receive any interest that accrued on their tariff payments.

The next step in the path to GSP renewal involves the Administration formally sending the FTA legislation to the Hill (that’s why they called today’s sessions “mock mark-ups”), after making any changes it feels necessary based on Members’ hearing comments. Because of the special “fast-track” rules governing consideration of these FTAs, Congress will not be able to make any changes to the Administration’s FTA legislation once submitted.

There is one unknown and it is Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA). The Senate has included renewal of TAA in the trade bills it reviewed today. The House package of bills did NOT include TAA. Negotiations are continuing on what TAA will include and on what bill it should be included. If it’s on a bill implementing an FTA, it could not be amended as it is considered both in the Senate and House. If it’s in a different bill, then tweaks can be made. That adds up to a large unknown but the approaching August recess provides a potential deadline (unless things unravel in a major way).

Congress is scheduled to recess on Monday, August 8.

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