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America Trade Programs FAQ

Question: What is TPA?

Answer: Trade Promotion Authority—or TPA—is a partnership between Congress and the administration that helps secure the most effective trade agreements possible. It has three main components: a list of congressionally-prescribed negotiating objectives that sets priorities for the administration to follow; robust consultation and transparency requirements that give Congress adequate oversight of negotiations and give the public a full understanding of what an agreement would mean; and a streamlined procedure to vote on a trade agreement if the administration meets its TPA obligations.

TPA is important because before making their best offers, our negotiating partners need to know that Congress will not re-write a trade agreement. Under TPA, Congress sets negotiating priorities and consultation requirements, and then provides an up-or-down vote if an administration meets them, so other nations can be confident that if they agree to a deal, the United States won’t go back on its word.

Question: What is the TPP?

Answer: The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a proposed regional free trade agreement (FTA) being negotiated among the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. U.S. negotiators and others describe and envision the TPP as a “comprehensive and high-standard” FTA that aims to liberalize trade in nearly all goods and services and include rules-based commitments beyond those currently established in the World Trade Organization (WTO). The broad outline of an agreement was announced on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) ministerial in November 2011, in Honolulu, HI. If concluded as envisioned, the TPP potentially could eliminate tariff and nontariff barriers to trade and investment among the parties and could serve as a template for a future trade pact among APEC members and potentially other countries. Congress has a direct interest in the negotiations, both through influencing U.S. negotiating positions with the executive branch, and by considering legislation to implement any resulting agreement.

The TPP negotiations have been ongoing for nearly five years and may be concluded in the near term, although several challenging issues remain unresolved. These issues are likely the most sensitive for negotiating parties and may require political-level decisions to reach final agreement. The negotiating dynamic itself is complex. For example, decisions on key market access issues on auto, dairy, sugar, and textiles and apparel may depend on the outcome of rules negotiations involving intellectual property rights or state-owned enterprises, among other issues.

Question: What is the T-TIP?

Answer: The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) is a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) being negotiated between the United States and the European Union 
(EU). Congress retains the constitutional authority to “regulate commerce with foreign nations,” and has a direct interest in the T-TIP, both through influencing the Administration’s positions on issues in the negotiations and approving implementing legislation for any final T-TIP agreement for it to enter into force. The 113th Congress will consider the renewal of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) for the T-TIP. Negotiators on both sides envision the T-TIP as a comprehensive and high standard FTA. They seek to (1) increase market access through the elimination of barriers to trade and investment in goods, services, and agriculture and the further opening of government procurement markets; (2) enhance regulatory coherence and cooperation; and (3) develop new rules in areas such as foreign direct investment, intellectual property rights, labor, the environment, and emerging “21st century” areas of trade (e.g., regulating data flows, trade facilitation in a supply chain environment, and the role of state-owned enterprises). The United States and EU also seek to use commitments reached in the T-TIP to advance multilateral trade liberalization, set globally-relevant rules and standards, and address challenges associated with the growing role of China and other emerging markets in the global economy.

Question: What is AGOA?

Answer: The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is a nonreciprocal trade preference program that provides duty-free treatment to U.S. imports of certain products from eligible sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries. There are 49 candidate SSA countries with 39 currently eligible for the preference benefits. Congress first authorized AGOA in 2000 to encourage export-led growth and economic development in SSA and improve U.S. economic relations with the region. Its current authorization expires on September 30, 2015. Bills to renew the preference program (H.R. 1891/S. 1009) were introduced in the House and Senate on April 17 and April 20.

In terms of tariff benefits and general eligibility criteria, AGOA is similar to the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), a U.S. trade preference program that applies to more than 120 developing countries. AGOA, however, covers more products and includes additional eligibility criteria beyond those in GSP. Additionally, AGOA includes trade and development provisions beyond its duty-free preferences.

Question: What is GSP?

Answer: The U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program provides non-reciprocal, duty-free tariff treatment to certain products imported from designated beneficiary developing countries (BDCs). The United States, the European Union, and other developed countries have implemented similar programs since the 1970s. The U.S. program was first authorized in Title V of the Trade Act of 1974, and is subject to periodic renewal by Congress. The GSP program was most recently extended until July 31, 2013, in Section 1 of P.L. 112-40, and has not been renewed. Imports under the GSP program in 2012 (last full year of GSP implementation) amounted to about $19.9 billion—about 6% of all imports from GSP countries, and about 1% of total U.S. imports


Question: What is a Customs Reauthorization Bill?

Answer: It is a Bill to reauthorize trade facilitation and trade enforcement functions and activities, and for other purposes. The Bill has six (6) Titles and a number of subtitles:

  • Title I—Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement
  • Title II—Import health and safety
  • Title III—Import-related protection of intellectual property rights
  • Title IV—Prevention of evasion of antidumping and countervailing duty orders
    • Subtitle A—Actions Relating to Enforcement of Trade Remedy Laws
    • Subtitle B—Investigation of Evasion of Trade Remedy Laws
    • Subtitle C—Other Matters, including addressing circumvention by new shippers.
  • Title V—Additional enforcement provisions
  • Title VI—Miscellaneous provisions