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This Week In Trade

Ex-Im Deal, Dallas TPP Round, ITC Hearing Top Trade Agenda This Week

Posted: May 07, 2012

Posted: May 7, 2012

This week promises to be a busy one when it comes to trade policy developments. It got off to a quick start last Friday with the public announcement of a bipartisan House deal to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. The new compromise bill is scheduled to pass under suspension of House rules, likely on Wednesday (May 9).

The twelfth round of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations is also set to kick off tomorrow (May 8) in Dallas. This round will largely determine how much progress negotiators can report to TPP trade ministers when they meet in early June on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum meeting, and Inside U.S. Trade will have two reporters on the ground starting later this week, so watch for continuing coverage.

Access to medicines remains one of the thorniest issues in the TPP negotiations, and the political pressure on this issue will only increase as House Democrats, labor unions and other civil society advocates celebrate the five-year anniversary of the "May 10" deal on this topic this Thursday at a public briefing.

House Democrats participating in the briefing, including Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI), will likely reiterate that they prefer the May 10 provisions to what the U.S. has tabled on access to medicines in the TPP talks. USTR is facing intense opposition to its proposal from other TPP partners as well, and is expected to focus on other IPR issues at the Dallas round while it reconsiders its strategy in the talks.

USTR Ron Kirk will likely at least mention the participation of the U.S., Peru and Chile in the TPP talks when he speaks publicly in Washington tomorrow on perspectives for hemispheric trade at an event hosted by the Council of the Americas. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Ex-Im Chairman Fred Hochberg are also participating in that event.

On the Hill, the Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow on the nomination of Meredith Broadbent to be a member of the International Trade Commission. If confirmed, she would replace current ITC Chairman Deanna Tanner Okun and would join David Johanson, whom the Senate approved last year as another new member of the ITC.

Rounding out the day tomorrow, the Washington International Trade Association is also holding a discussion on the outcomes of the May 3-4 U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue summit. At the conclusion of that summit in Beijing, the two sides announced a series of incremental advances, including on the issue of export controls.

The 20th Session of the Codex Committee on Residues of Veterinary Drugs in Foods (CCRVDF) of the Codex Alimentarius Commission is also taking place this week May 7-11 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In advance of that meeting, U.S. agricultural groups have urged the U.S. to continue resisting efforts by the EU to determine that eight veterinary drugs should not be used in food producing animals, which they say would set a bad precedent.

The Bipartisan Policy Center is also holding an event on May 9 on U.S.-Russia trade relations and human rights. This event will include remarks from Rep. James McGovern (D-MA) and the AFL-CIO, and could provide early clues on how hard a lift it will be for Congress to vote to remove Russia from the Jackson-Vanik amendment this year.

Concerning the TPP talks this week in Dallas, all negotiating groups are scheduled to meet, including investment and labor from May 8-13 and environment from May 14-18. U.S. bilateral market access negotiations are slated to take place around the coming weekend, sources said.

Assistant USTR Barbara Weisel and other TPP chief negotiators are slated to arrive in Dallas around May 11, and Deputy USTR Demetrios Marantis will be there May 11-13 as well. Stakeholders and negotiators can mingle at a reception on May 11, and chief negotiators will formally brief stakeholders on May 13.

Meanwhile, TPP opponents are scheduled to hold a rally against the talks on May 12, after they submit a petition urging TPP negotiators to release the confidential texts that they are discussing.

In addition to not focusing on access to medicines issues, TPP negotiators this week are also not expected to make much headway on the issue of textiles and apparel, which has bogged down U.S.-Vietnam bilateral market access negotiations. Both sides charge the other is not being flexible enough to allow for more movement.

Observers also say it is unlikely that the U.S. will table major missing pieces from its IPR proposal, such as the protections that must be afforded to biologic drugs. On the other hand, the Dallas round will provide the first chance for negotiators to substantively engage on the U.S. proposal for disciplines on state-owned enterprises.

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