The Obama Administration released its 2016 Trade Policy Agenda this week, detailing its trade priorities for the year ahead. Next week, President Barack Obama will welcome Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the White House, where the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal is one topic expected to be on the agenda. The Senate Finance Committee hosted its first hearing of the year, focusing on the implementation of past trade agreements and trade enforcement challenges. The Senate will be in session next week, while the House of Representatives is in recess.
USTR Releases 2016 Trade Policy Agenda. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released the Administration’s 2016 Trade Policy Agenda. While the first part of the annual report emphasized the advantages of approving the TPP deal to the United States, the Administration avoided providing a timeline for Congress to approve the agreement. The report also identifies additional priorities for this year: (1) concluding negotiations with the EU on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP); (2) negotiating the expansion of the Information Technology Agreement (ITA); (3) pursuing a Trade in Services Agreement (TISA); and (4) pursuing an Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA). Trade enforcement also remains a priority.
Senate Finance Committee Examines Past Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Chairman of the Committee, opened the Thursday hearing by noting the United States has entered into 14 FTAs with 20 countries and acknowledged the agreements have provided significant benefits to the United States, while also criticizing that many trading partners in existing FTAs “have not fully and faithfully complied with all of their obligations under [the] agreements.” While TPP was not a focus of the hearing, the attention on perceived failed trade agreement obligations sends a clear signal to the TPP members that Congress is closely examining the TPP deal for clear, enforceable mechanisms and may seek some changes via the TPP implementing bill.
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