President Barack Obama addressed a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, delivering his final State of the Union (SOTU) address.  Although trade is generally not a central theme during a congressional and presidential election year, the President did mention the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal near the end of the speech as one example of American leadership and called on Congress to approve the deal:

“[W]e forged a Trans-Pacific Partnership to open markets, protect workers and the environment, and advance American leadership in Asia. It cuts 18,000 taxes on products Made in America, and supports more good jobs. … You want to show our strength in this century? Approve this agreement. Give us the tools to enforce it.” 

The President also claimed American leadership in negotiating a deal with Iran to end its nuclear program and in negotiating the global climate agreement.  With respect to climate change, President Obama urged the United States to accelerate the transition away from dirty energy (oil, coal).  Finally, the President called for Congress to lift the trade embargo on Cuba, saying such action would consolidate American leadership and credibility in the Western Hemisphere.

TPP Developments.  The day after the State of the Union Address, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman delivered remarks at the Wilson Center, a Washington, DC-based think tank, in support of the TPP.  Ambassador Froman emphasized that the Administration would work with congressional leaders to identify the best window for bringing the agreement up for a vote.  Ambassador Froman is expected to meet with lawmakers the week of 25 January.  Republican leaders in both chambers, however, remain largely silent on TPP and the upcoming legislative agenda.

Customs Bill – A Senate Vote Possibly This Month?  Congress is in recess on Monday, 18 January, in observance of the Martin Luther King holiday, with the House in recess the full week.  While Senate Republican leadership suggests the Senate may act yet this month on the House-passed Customs bill, some Democrats in the Senate have warned they will attempt to derail the bill.  Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota), the Republican conference chair and a member of the Senate Finance Committee, said to reporters this week that he expects Democrats to raise a point of order over the House-added language on Internet taxes and expressed confidence it will be defeated.

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