So far, 2015 has been a great year for those who believe free and open trade is critical to the U.S. economy. We’ve already seen action on a number of trade bills and proposals that seek to expand global trade from less developed countries. Renewal of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) means that the U.S. has retroactively reduced tariffs on many goods coming from several less developed countries as a way to spur economic growth for both sides of the transaction.
Unfortunately, as we’ve seen with recent budget battles, nothing happens in the United States Congress without a pending deadline looming over proceedings. Unless there is a deadline to focus the mind, the incentive to push tough decisions into the future is just too strong. For nearly every politician in Washington the upcoming 2016 presidential election is viewed as just such a deadline. Any complex deal or decision must be completed now or else put off until after the 2016 election is decided lest it negatively impact the political jockeying in the run up to next November. The practical effect of all of this is that the already stilted legislative process is just a few weeks from grinding almost completely to a halt. Thankfully, as I have previously discussed in this space, trade is one of the few areas where there is still room for substantive action before everyone hits the campaign trail in earnest.
Despite the failure to reach a final comprehensive deal during the most recent round of negotiations in Hawaii, trade observers believe the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is nearly complete. We look forward to reviewing the completed proposal as soon as it is available to better understand how it will impact the global wood products industry. All of this was made possible by the hard work done this spring to pass Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation that ensures that TPP will be subject to simple up or down votes rather than further amendment that would send the negotiations back to square one.
IWPA is also working with allied industry groups to convince Congress to avoid making changes to our nation’s trade enforcement rules that will negatively impact importers. This fall we expect Congress to complete consideration of legislation to update the legal framework that guides U.S. Customs and Border Protection. This summer IWPA joined groups such as the National Retail Federation, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, and the American Association for Exporters and Importers, and the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America in urging the conference committee that is working to reconcile the House and Senate versions of this legislation against including several troublesome provisions that would “hinder trade enforcement, jeopardize millions of U.S. jobs, and create confusion, unpredictability, and inefficiency at our borders.”
We at IWPA look forward to hosting friends from around the country at our annual Board and Members Meeting October 21-23 here in Alexandria, Virginia, where attendees will learn more about these issues and have an opportunity to discuss them with Members of Congress, their staff, and several key Administration officials. We have an opportunity to make a great year even greater. But the clock is ticking.
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