As leading trade ministers gathered in Geneva this week to discuss future activities of the World
Trade Organization (WTO), the bipartisan House Trade Working Group called for a “new direction in
United States trade policy” that puts more emphasis on reciprocity.
The congressional group said this week’s meetings “present a tremendous opportunity to help
reshape the WTO and move the United States toward a new trade policy.”
Calling the meetings “a timely and useful exercise,” Pascal Lamy, director-general of the
WTO, expressed hope that the trade ministers would provide guidance as to how they see the stalled
Doha Round of trade liberalization negotiations can move forward. In his opening remarks, Lamy
said, “Progress has been made on a range of technical issues across the board on the so-called ‘big
ticket items’ which needs to be accelerated.”
US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, who is heading up the US delegation, said he is attending
the conference “for one simple reason – to help create more market opportunities for American goods
At a news conference prior to the opening of the ministerial meetings, Rep. Mike Michaud,
D-Maine, one of the leaders of the trade group, said: “Those of us in Congress who have supported
reforming our trade policies believe the current Doha Round is bad for the United States. Instead
of expanding the WTO model and its proven damage further, we need to turn around this agenda and
make trade work for all nations.”
The Doha Round, initiated in 2001, has been bogged down because of major differences between
the developed and developing nations on tariff-cutting and market access issues. US textile
manufacturers have insisted that tariff reductions be reciprocal and that there should be sectoral
negotiations, so textiles and apparel can be considered separately from other commodities and
not be used for trade-offs.
In order for the United States to be involved in future Doha Round negotiations, the
President’s Trade Promotion Authority, which has expired, must be renewed. The National Council of
Textile Organizations has two objectives in connection with the renewal: maintenance of US textile
and apparel tariffs; and some sort of a China safeguard mechanism.
The House Trade Working Group is supporting two pieces of legislation pending in Congress
that are designed to reshape the US government’s trade policies.
One, the Reciprocal Market Access Act, is designed to ensure that US trade negotiators
achieve meaningful market access for US products. It requires the President to provide a
certification to Congress in advance of agreeing to any modification of an existing duty on any
product for which reciprocal market access has been obtained. It also gives the US government the
right to automatically revoke any concessions if a trading nation does not live up to its
A second measure supported by the trade group, simply known as the Trade Act, requires the
Government Accountability Office to conduct a comprehensive review of the major pacts, such as the
North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Central America-Dominican Republic FTA (CAFTA-DR)
and various WTO agreements and report to Congress on whether these agreements live up to certain
standards, including labor and human rights protection, safety, environmental considerations and
national security. The bill would prohibit any ban on Buy American and anti-sweatshop measures. It
would create a “Super Committee” chaired by the leadership of the House Ways and Means Committee
and the Senate Finance Committee to work with the President on formulating negotiating plans.
It also would replace the President’s Trade Promotion Authority, also called Fast Track negotiating
authority, with an approach that gives Congress authority prior to negotiating any new agreement to
establish mandatory negotiating objectives and ensure that they are met by trading partners.
December 1, 2009