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This Week In Trade

Kirk Testimony, Potential GPX Bill, TPP Round Headline Trade Action

Posted: February 27, 2012


This week is poised to see significant developments on the trade policy front, including testimony by U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk on the president's 2012 trade agenda, possible introduction of GPX legislation to counteract a much-maligned court decision, and the start of the eleventh round of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks.

Kirk is scheduled to testify before the House Ways and Means Committee this Wednesday (Feb. 29), one day before the administration is scheduled to release its 2012 Trade Policy Agenda report to Congress. A companion Finance Committee hearing is bound to follow sometime in March, although a date has not yet been announced.

With Congress back in session this week, the trade committees are also hoping to introduce legislation that would counteract the mid-December decision by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that barred the Commerce Department from imposing countervailing duties on imports from non-market economies like China.

Staff have been negotiating the contents of such a bill for weeks, and now appear hopeful that they can introduce a bill this week and ensure its swift passage before mid-March, at which time the CAFC may have decided whether or not to rehear the case. At that point, the GPX decision would enter into force within 90 days or roughly by the end of June, unless the administration appeals it to the Supreme Court. Once the decision is effective, importers could take steps to terminate existing CVD orders.

The eleventh round of TPP talks will kick off in Australia on Thursday (March 1). While Deputy USTR Demetrios Marantis is not attending, he continues his tour this week in Asia, with meetings on TPP in Brunei today (Feb. 27) and meetings tomorrow (Feb. 28) with officials in the Philippines, which is interested in joining the TPP talks.

Also today, BIS Undersecretary for Industry and Security Eric Hirschhorn is providing an update on the White House export control reform initiative at the annual West Coast export control forum. The President's Export Council Subcommittee on Export Administration, a group of private-sector stakeholders, will then hold a "field hearing" on export control reform March 1-2.

On Thursday, EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht will testify on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) before European Parliament's international trade committee. This step is part of the EU's ratification process, but is taking on new importance in light of the increasing political backlash against ACTA in Europe.

There are also several developments this week on the legal front. Mid-week, the World Trade Organization's Appellate Body is expected to release to the United States and the European Union a confidential version of its ruling in the EU challenge of U.S. government subsidies to the Boeing Company.

In addition, oral arguments kick off tomorrow in a Supreme Court case on whether corporations hold civil liability for committing or facilitating egregious crimes committed overseas against foreign nationals. This case relates to the Alien Tort Statute, and its outcome could have major implications for international corporations.

Today, the United States and Canada also kicked off oral arguments in the third arbitration under the 2006 Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA). The United States is charging that Canada is violating the SLA by downgrading timber in British Columbia's interior region in order to lower its price.

Also this week, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Miriam Sapiro will meet with the Undersecretary of the British Foreign Office Simon Frasier on Wednesday. The British government is among the supporters of a bold U.S.-EU initiative that would deepen bilateral trade ties, something that has support in the U.S. Congress as well.