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This Week In Trade

NAFTA Leaders Summit, TPP Meetings, USTR Reports Highlight Trade Activity

Posted: April 02, 2012

Posted: April 2, 2012

This week in trade kicks off with high-level meetings between President Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon. The three leaders are meeting today under the auspices of the North American Leaders Summit, and are almost sure to touch upon trade issues like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks.

Both Mexico and Canada are still pushing the U.S. to allow them to join the TPP talks in the near term. According to the White House, the trilateral meeting will focus on economic growth and competitiveness, citizen security, energy and climate change, as well as the upcoming Summit of the Americas later this month. Obama is also meeting for lunch with the two leaders today after the trilateral meeting, and will hold a press conference later this afternoon.

Mexico appears eager to join the TPP talks before its presidential election on July 1, which would then lead to a changeover in government and likely delay its bid to join. Canada is also eager to join soon, but is not focusing solely on TPP; for instance, it recently announced new trade initiatives with Japan and Thailand. The U.S., along with Australia and New Zealand, is still hesitant to let new members into the talks at this point.

Current TPP partners are also holding a series of informal, inter-sessional meetings this week in Los Angeles in order to help pave the way for the next formal round of talks in mid-May. The meetings this week cover the areas of environment, government procurement and labor, and are the first of a series of informal meetings this month on TPP.

Deputy USTR Demetrios Marantis is also visiting Los Angeles this week, but is not participating in the TPP meetings or meeting with TPP officials while there, according to a U.S. trade official. His activities include a tour of factories that manufacture apparel, including high-end denim, and a roundtable discussion with apparel and textile producers to discuss trade issues affecting their businesses.

Another major development this week is today's release of three reports by USTR to Congress that detail barriers that U.S. exporters face in other countries as well as USTR's efforts to reduce these barriers. The first report covers sanitary and phytosanitary barriers, the second covers technical barriers to trade, and the third details other trade barriers facing U.S. goods and services, foreign direct investment, and intellectual property protections. USTR will also release a separate report on trade barriers facing IPR industries later this month.

Some of these foreign trade barriers could come up when Kirk meets with cleared advisers on the Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee this week in order to discuss priority trade issues. Some former cleared advisers have initiated legal proceedings against the administration for new rules that essentially forced them to give up their status as cleared advisers, although it is unclear exactly when a ruling will come in that case.

Trade developments in the forefront this week got off to an early start Friday (March 30), when leaders of the Ways and Means Committee and the Finance Committee kicked off the process for developing a new miscellaneous tariff bill (MTB). Given the political controversy on whether or not MTBs are earmarks and the lengthy vetting process even for expiring provisions, it is unlikely that a bill could pass this year.

Also on March 30, the U.S. submitted a panel request under Dispute Settlement Understanding Article 21.5 to review the EU implementation of measures in the Airbus subsidies case, DS316. The U.S. also requested a DSB meeting on April 13 to consider its request.

Also last Friday, USTR welcomed the formal adoption by the parties to the WTO's Government Procurement Agreement of the outcome of negotiations to revise the GPA, although it could be a while before that revised agreement is actually implemented.