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Senators Urge FTA Investment Protections Purged

Senators Urge FTA Investment Protections Purged

Washington, D.C. – Five Democratic members of the House Ways and Means Committee have written to the White House urging President Barack Obama to exclude foreign investment protections from major free trade agreements such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

The five argue that such protections “might undermine buffers against future financial crises” and damage public support for future free trade deals.

The House Ways & means Committee has Congressional jurisdiction over trade issues.

Foreign investment protection is hot-button topic in the TTIP trade deal, prompting the European Union to call a halt to talks on the investment-related components of the proposed pact while the bloc’s 28 members consult “more widely.”

The letter follows a similar letter sent last week by three U.S. senators to U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman asking him not to include investment protection rules in the proposed 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

“The consequence would be to strip our regulators of the tools they need to prevent the next crisis,” said the letter, which also cautioned against rules “limiting the use of capital controls or allowing open access for risky financial products.”

Among the letter’s signatories was 2016 presidential hopeful Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who said such rules would expose “critical” U.S. financial regulations to challenge and dissuade policymakers from writing rules that impact foreign banks.

In response, a spokesman for the USTR said the TPP “would in no way limit the ability of governments to put in place strong consumer protections or to regulate financial markets” and would include “specific provisions protecting regulation.”

12/29/2014

White House ‘Optimistic’ on Pacific Trade Deal

Los Angeles, CA – The White House is optimistic on the chances that negotiators can forge a strong, comprehensive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal that would impact 11 countries and encompass nearly 40 percent of the world economy.

“I’m much more optimistic about us being able to close out an agreement with our TPP partners than I was last year,” said President Barack Obama at a recent meeting of the President’s Export Council.

Confident that the administration could make a “strong case” in Congress for a TPP, Obama added, “It doesn’t mean it’s a done deal, but I think the odds of us being able to get a strong agreement are significantly higher than 50-50.”

According to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the White House has held more than 1,500 meetings with members of Congress on TPP, including sharing negotiating text, and would continue to consult closely.

U.S. Representative Sander Levin of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over trade, has said there was still a long list of “major issues” impacting the final make-up of the proposed trade pact.

Levin is calling for Congress to have more input into the deal, asserting that workers’ rights, access to medicines in developing countries and the phase-out period for U.S. tariffs on Japanese cars top the list of of major issues still to be resolved.

With the ongoing talks wrapping-up this week in Washington, D.C., negotiators may meet again next month in either the U.S. or Australia.

The 11 countries included in the TPP are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the U.S.

12/16/2014

U.S. Export Volume Expected to Climb in 2015

Baltimore, MD –   U.S. exports are expected to grow by $88 billion or 5 percent, in 2015, despite tepid global GDP growth, according to a research report just released by trade credit insurance provider, Euler Hermes.

According to the company’s latest Economic Insight report, the U.S.’s biggest export gains in 2015 will come from Canada, China and Mexico.

The report also projects strong export increases to smaller countries in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, “reflecting recent rapid growth in these emerging markets, while also providing the U.S. with more diversification in its export composition.”

Export gains will primarily come from the agrifood, chemicals, energy and mechanical sectors. Textiles and ferrous metals show the smallest increases as the U.S. has become a much smaller player globally within these industries.

As U.S. energy companies are expected to start exporting natural gas globally by the end of 2015, revenues from this sector could be significant, growing from $16 billion in 2012 to $42 billion in 2040 or nearly 1 percent of GDP.

The planned 2016 expansion of the Panama Canal, which may double its capacity, “will also boost U.S. trade by allowing larger ships to carry exports from the U.S. through the canal, significantly reducing costs and making those exports more competitive.”

The U.S.’s largest trade deficit is with China, but several factors could shrink it, especially as China pivots toward a more domestically driven economy, and as the U.S. natural gas boon and favorable labor conditions have reduced China’s competitive wage advantage to the point that a growing number of companies are opting to ‘in-source’ their manufacturing.

In the coming year, the value of the U.S. dollar is expected to rise in 2015 making U.S. exports more expensive and less competitive with export financing faces several challenges, including tight lending conditions and risk-averse bankers.

Rising rates in 2015, the report says, “may make financing more costly and/or harder to obtain, especially given fragile global growth and geopolitical uncertainty.”

In addition, global business insolvencies “are expected to fall 3 percent, a much slower rate than 2014’s decrease of 12 percent.”

At the same time, insolvencies still remain 12 percent above 2007’s pre-crisis levels, meaning that exporters will need to continue stringently evaluating their partners for insolvency risk.

To further promote U.S. exports, two major trade agreements – the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – are currently being negotiated.

Both agreements  are being structured to reduce the burden of Customs, regulations, tariffs and taxes, lower barriers to trade, and allow increased access to new markets.

“Demand for U.S. exports is, of course, dependent on the strength of the global economy,” said Dan North, senior economist for Euler Hermes Americas.

“While the global economy is set to enter its fourth straight year of lackluster growth, the U.S. economy continues to grow and many of our industrial sectors are showing strength both at home and abroad.”

12/11/2014

 

Transpac Trade Deal Forecasted By Years End

Los Angeles, CA – Momentum is reportedly building toward the successful drafting of  Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement by the end of the year.

Talks between representative of the 12 nations involved have resumed in Sydney, Australia, with Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb, host of the current round of talks, telling the media that reports from attending trade ministers convey that “there does seem to be a real head of steam.”

All signs, he said, point to a trade agreement being forged “by the end of the year.”

 

If agreed upon, a TPP, which has been negotiated for several years, would encompass 40 percent of the global economy and hundreds of billions of dollars in goods and services trade.

According to US Trade Representative Mike Froman, trade ministers had been in “almost constant” talks since the last TPP meeting in Singapore in May.

“We are enjoying a great deal of momentum and focus across the board, and it’s up to us to seize that momentum and make sure that this meeting is maximally productive,” he said.

Over the past year, talks slowed while the Washington and Tokyo ironed out several key ‘sticking points’ including Japanese tariffs on agricultural imports and access to Japan’s auto market for US-made vehicles.

“The issues left at the end are often times the most challenging but now is the time to start working through those and finding solutions,” Froman said, adding the TPP “is within our grasp.”

The 12 prospective TPP members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the US.

10/27/2014

‘Significant Progress’ Seen in Recent TPP Talks

Washington, DC – The recent negotiations between the 12 Pacific Rim nations crafting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement “made significant progress” on proposed rules for state-owned enterprises despite differences over tariffs remaining one of the obstacles to a final deal.

Spanning ten days in Hanoi, the talks “spent successive rounds trying to narrow the gaps,” said US delegation leader, Barbara Weisel, US Trade Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

The TPP would create a free-trade zone from Australia to Peru with $28 trillion in economic output, or 39 percent of the global total. The deal is seen as a major component of the White House’s effort to bolster boost US exports.

The pact, would be the biggest trade deal in US history. The TPP “goes beyond typical trade agreements that focus on reducing tariffs, and highlights issues such as stricter safeguards for patents and copyrights and leveling the playing field for companies that compete with government-backed businesses,” said Weisel.

Responding to the status of the TPP talks, US Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President and Head of International Affairs Myron Brilliant said, “Now is the time to seize upon the extensive economic benefits that the TPP offers every participating country.”

All parties to the negotiations, he said following a recent USCOC event, “must show the political courage required to make the hard decisions needed to conclude the TPP negotiations soon, as this will not get any easier with time.”

Commenting on what he called the “importance of crafting a high-standard, comprehensive trade agreement,” Brilliant said, “If Japan, the United States, or any negotiating partner cannot meet the high standards of the TPP on market access or rules, then the overall ambition of the agreement will be lowered to the detriment of every nation’s interests. We should all guard against that outcome.”

The proposed TPP’s geopolitical importance, he concluded, “is unmistakable. While we must not subordinate commercial priorities to foreign policy goals, the TPP’s geostrategic importance should strengthen our resolve to achieve an ambitious, comprehensive agreement.”

The countries covered by the trade pact are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the US.

China, which has been excluded from the TPP, is separately moving on trade talks with countries such as South Korea, Japan and Australia.

09/30/2014