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Monday, December 27, 2010

Chinese Tire Imports: Section 421 Safeguards and the World Trade Organization (WTO)


Jeanne J. Grimmett
Legislative Attorney

On April 20, 2009, the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union filed a petition with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) requesting an investigation under Section 421 of the Trade Act of 1974, 19 U.S.C. § 2451, a trade remedy statute addressing import surges from China, to examine whether Chinese passenger vehicle and light truck tires were causing market disruption to U.S. tire producers. Market disruption will be found to occur under Section 421 whenever imports of a Chinese product that is “like or directly competitive with” a domestic product “are increasing rapidly ... so as to be a significant cause of material injury, or threat of material injury, to the domestic industry.” The ITC initiated the investigation (TA-421-7) on April 24, 2009.

As a result of its investigation, the ITC in June 2009 voted 4-2 that imports of the subject tires were causing domestic market disruption and recommended that the President impose an additional duty on these items for three years at an annually declining rate. The ITC also recommended expedited consideration of trade adjustment assistance applications filed by affected firms or workers. On September 11, 2009, President Obama proclaimed increased tariffs on Chinese tires for three years effective September 26, 2009, albeit at lower rates than those recommended by the ITC. The tariff increase is 35% ad valorem in the first year, 30% in the second year, and 25% in the third year. The President also directed the Secretaries of Labor and Commerce to expedite applications for trade adjustment assistance and to provide other available economic assistance to affected workers, firms, and communities. While the President was authorized to review the tariffs after six months and to modify, reduce, or terminate them, he did not take any of these actions. Six petitions had been filed under Section 421 in the past, with the ITC finding that market disruption existed in four out of six of its investigations; President Bush decided not to provide import relief, however, in these earlier cases.

Section 421 was enacted as one element of 2000 legislation that permitted the President to grant most-favored-nation (MFN) tariff treatment to Chinese products upon China’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Section 421 authorizes the President to impose safeguards— that is, temporary measures such as import surcharges or quotas—on Chinese goods if domestic market disruption is found. The statute implements a China-specific safeguard mechanism contained in China’s WTO Accession Protocol that may be utilized by WTO members through December 2013. The Protocol provision is separate from Article XIX of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) 1994 and the WTO Agreement on Safeguards, which allow WTO members to respond to injurious import surges generally but on a stricter basis than under the Protocol. A major difference is that the Protocol provision permits a safeguard to be applied only to Chinese products while the Safeguards Agreement requires that a safeguard be applied to a product regardless of its source.

China filed a WTO complaint against the United States in September 2009; a dispute panel was established in January 2010 and panelists were appointed in March 2010. China claimed that the Section 421 tariffs violate U.S. GATT obligations to accord Chinese tires MFN tariff treatment and not to exceed negotiated tariff rates, that the United States imposed tariffs under China’s Accession Protocol without first attempting to justify them under general GATT and WTO safeguard provisions, and that Section 421 and its application in this case violate U.S. obligations under the Protocol. In a report issued December 13, 2010, the WTO panel rejected all of China’s claims. China has 60 days to appeal the report on legal issues, an action it reportedly intends to take
.


Date of Report: December 15, 2010
Number of Pages: 29
Order Number: R40844
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Proposed U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA): Provisions and Implications


William H. Cooper, Coordinator
Specialist in International Trade and Finance

Mark E. Manyin
Specialist in Asian Affairs

Remy Jurenas
Specialist in Agricultural Policy

Michaela D. Platzer
Specialist in Industrial Organization and Business


On June 30, 2007, U.S. and South Korean trade officials signed the proposed U.S.-South Korean Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) for their respective countries. If approved, the KORUS FTA would be the second-largest FTA that South Korea has signed to date, after the agreement with the European Union (EU). It would be the second-largest (next to North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA) in which the United States participates. South Korea is the seventhlargest trading partner of the United States and the United States is South Korea’s third-largest trading partner.

Various studies conclude that the agreement would increase bilateral trade and investment flows. The final text of the proposed KORUS FTA covers a wide range of trade and investment issues and, therefore, could have substantial economic implications for both the United States and South Korea. The agreement will not enter into force unless Congress approves implementation legislation. The negotiations were conducted under the trade promotion authority (TPA), also called fast-track trade authority, that Congress granted the President under the Bipartisan Trade Promotion Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-210).

Under TPA the President has the discretion on when to submit the implementing legislation to Congress. President Bush did not submit the legislation because of differences with the Democratic leadership over treatment of autos and beef, among other issues. Early in his Administration, President Obama indicated the need to resolve those issues before he would submit the implementing legislation. On December 3, after a series of arduous negotiations and missed deadlines, President Obama and President Lee announced that their negotiators reached agreement on modifications in the KORUS FTA, and that they were prepared to move ahead to getting the agreement approved by the respective legislatures. The White House is expected to send implementing legislation to the 112
th Congress but has not yet provided a timeline.

The modifications are in the form of changes in phaseout periods for tariffs on autos, a new safeguard provision on autos, and concessions by South Korea on allowing a larger number of U.S. cars into South Korea under U.S. safety standards than was the case under the original KORUS FTA provisions. The beef issue was not resolved because of the political sensitivity of the issue in South Korea. In 2008, when President Lee reached an agreement with the United States to lift South Korea’s partial ban on U.S. beef imports, it triggered massive anti-government protests that forced the two governments to renegotiate the beef agreement. The U.S. beef sector has largely supported the KORUS FTA because of the projected benefits it expected to gain if the agreement is enacted.

A broad swath of the U.S. business community supports the KORUS FTA . With the modifications in the agreement reached in December, this group also includes the three Detroitbased auto manufacturers and the United Auto Workers (UAW) union. It still faces opposition from some labor unions and other groups, including Public Citizen. Many U.S. supporters view passage of the KORUS FTA as important to secure new opportunities in the South Korean market, while opponents claim that the KORUS FTA does not go far enough to break down South Korean trade barriers or that the agreement will encourage U.S. companies to move their production offshore at the expense of U.S. workers. Other observers have suggested the outcome of the KORUS FTA could have implications for the U.S.-South Korean alliance as a whole, as well as on U.S. Asia policy and U.S. trade policy, particularly in light of an FTA signed in October 2010 by South Korea and the EU
.


Date of Report: December 15, 2010
Number of Pages: 57
Order Number: RL34330
Price: $29.95

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The EU-South Korea Free Trade Agreement and Its Implications for the United States


William H. Cooper
Specialist in International Trade and Finance

Remy Jurenas
Specialist in Agricultural Policy

Michaela D. Platzer
Specialist in Industrial Organization and Business

Mark E. Manyin
Specialist in Asian Affairs


On October 6, 2010, the 27 member European Union (EU) and South Korea signed a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA). The agreement is expected to go into effect on July 1, 2011, pending approval by the European Parliament and the South Korean National Assembly. If enacted, the South Korea-EU FTA (KOREU FTA) would be the largest FTA in terms of market size that South Korea has entered into. The KOREU FTA reflects the EU and South Korean trade strategies to use FTAs to strengthen economic ties outside their home regions. It also builds upon the surge in trade and investment flows between South Korea and the EU over the past decade. This agreement has possible implications for U.S. trade with South Korea and congressional action on the proposed U.S.-South Korea FTA (KORUS FTA).

The proposed KOREU FTA is very comprehensive. It would reduce and eliminate tariffs and other trade barriers in manufactured goods, agricultural products and services and would also cover such trade-related activities as government procurement, intellectual property rights, labor rights and environmental issues.

Most studies done on the potential impact of the KOREU FTA estimate that the agreement will have a small but positive effect on the economies of the EU and South Korea as a whole and that the larger relative impact would be on the South Korean economy. The greatest economic impact of the KOREU FTA would be on specific sectors in each economy. EU services providers would be expected to experience gains from the agreement, especially in the areas of retail and wholesale trade, transportation services, financial services, and business services. In terms of trade in goods, EU exporters of pharmaceuticals, auto parts, industrial machinery, electronics parts, and some agricultural goods and processed foods would be expected to gain from the KOREU FTA’s implementation. At the same time, South Korean manufacturers of cars, ships, wireless telecommunications devices, chemical products, and imaging equipment would be expected to increase their exports to the EU market.

The KOREU FTA is similar to the proposed KORUS FTA in many respects. Both agreements are comprehensive and both would eliminate tariffs on most trade in goods soon after they enter into force. However, they differ in other respects. Phase-out periods for tariffs on some manufactured goods differ. In addition, the KOREU FTA does not cover foreign direct investment. Unlike the KORUS FTA, the KOREU FTA would not allow trade sanctions to be applied where violations of the workers’ rights, and environment provisions have been deemed to occur. In addition, the KORUS FTA would cover a broader range of trade in services than would the KOREU FTA. It is not clear whether these differences in the structures of the FTAs would result in appreciable differences in outcomes in terms of economic gains and losses.

U.S. and European firms are close competitors in a number of sectors and industries, particularly autos. Some business representatives argue that enactment of the KOREU FTA before enactment of the KORUS FTA would give European competitors commercial first mover advantages, since EU firms, such as those in the auto industry or the services sector, could gain greater market opportunities in South Korea not afforded to U.S. firms. On the other hand, other factors could also mitigate such advantages. For example, U.S. multinational firms operating in the EU could benefit from the KOREU FTA. Nevertheless, the content and fate of the KOREU FTA could influence the pace and tone of any debate in the United States on the KORUS FTA in the 112
th Congress.


Date of Report: December 17, 2010
Number of Pages: 32-
Order Number: R41534
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Trade Primer: Qs and As on Trade Concepts, Performance, and Policy

Raymond J. Ahearn, Coordinator
Specialist in International Trade and Finance

The 112th Congress has a full legislative and oversight agenda on international trade. The agenda may include considering legislation to implement pending free trade agreements with Panama, South Korea, and Colombia, enhanced enforcement of U.S. trade agreements, as well as oversight of the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round and trade relations with China. This report provides information and context for many of these topics. It is intended to be read primarily by Members and staff who may be new to trade issues.

This report is divided into four sections in a question-and-answer format: trade concepts, U.S. trade performance, formulation of U.S. trade policy, and trade and investment issues. Additional suggested readings are provided in an appendix.

The first section on “Trade Concepts” deals with why countries trade, the consequences of trade expansion, and the relationship between globalization and trade. Key questions address the benefits of specialization in production and trade, efforts by governments to influence a country’s comparative advantage, how trade expansion can be costly and disruptive to workers in particular industries and skill categories, and some unique characteristics of trade between developed countries.

The second section, on trade performance, focuses on the U.S. trade deficit and its impact on industries. Several questions address the causes of trade deficits, the role of foreign trade barriers, and how the trade deficit can be reduced. In terms of business impacts, the questions focus on which U.S. industries appear to be the most and least competitive, and on the relative size of the manufacturing sector.

The third section deals with the roles played by the Executive Branch, Congress, the private sector, and the Judiciary in the formulation of U.S. trade policy. Information on how trade policy functions are organized in Congress and the Executive Branch, as well as the respective roles of individual Members and the President, is provided. The formal and informal roles of the private sector and the involvement of the Judiciary are also covered.

The fourth section, on U.S. trade and investment policy, asks questions related to trade negotiations and agreements and to imports, exports, and investments. The justification, types, and consequences of trade liberalization agreements, along with the role of the World Trade Organization, are treated in this section. The costs and benefits of imports, exports, and investments are also discussed, including how the government deals with disruption and injury to workers and companies caused by imports and its efforts to both restrict and promote exports. The motivations and consequences of foreign direct investment flows are also discussed.



Date of Report: December 8, 2010
Number of Pages: 35
Order Number: RL33944
Price: $29.95

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tariff Modifications: Miscellaneous Tariff Bills


Vivian C. Jones
Specialist in International Trade and Finance

Importers often request that Members of Congress introduce bills seeking to suspend or reduce tariffs on certain imports on their behalf. The vast majority of these commodities are chemicals, raw materials, or other components used as inputs in the manufacturing process. The rationale for these requests, in general, is that they help domestic producers of the downstream goods reduce costs, thus making their products more competitive. In turn, these cost reductions can be passed on to the consumer.

In recent congressional practice, House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees, the committees of jurisdiction over tariffs, have combined these duty suspension bills and other technical trade provisions into larger pieces of legislation known as miscellaneous tariff bills (MTBs). Before inclusion in an MTB, the individual legislative proposals introduced by Members are reviewed by trade subcommittee staff and several executive branch agencies to ensure that they are noncontroversial (generally, that no domestic producer objects) and relatively revenueneutral (revenue loss of no more than $500,000 per item).

Late in the 109
th Congress, the last time that MTB legislation was passed, the House passed H.R. 6406, a trade package that included suspension of duties on about 380 products until December 31, 2009. The legislation was inserted into H.R. 6111, a previously House-passed tax extension package. The Senate approved H.R. 6111, including the duty suspensions, and the bill was signed by the President on December 20, 2006 (P.L. 109-432). Tariff suspensions on about 300 other products were previously inserted into H.R. 4, The Pension Protection Act of 2006 (P.L. 109- 280).

In the 110
th Congress, congressional ethics and earmark reform legislation also targeted “limited tariff benefit[s],” defined as “a provision modifying the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States in a manner that benefits 10 or fewer entities.” This legislation amended House and Senate rules to make it out of order to consider bills containing earmarks, limited tax benefits, or limited tariff benefits unless certain disclosure and reporting requirements are met by the Member proposing the legislation and the committees of jurisdiction. Even though a November 2007 House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee advisory called for House Members to submit legislative proposals for inclusion in a proposed MTB by December 14, 2007, no omnibus bill was introduced in either House.

In the 111
th Congress, H.R. 4380, the Miscellaneous Trade and Technical Corrections Act of 2009, was introduced on December 15, 2009. This bill temporarily suspends or reduces for three years duties on over 600 products, many of which renew duty suspension or reductions that were already in place. In the Senate, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley requested on October 1, 2009, that Senators introduce miscellaneous tariff measures by the end of October—after an agreement was reached regarding additional disclosure requirements for lobbyists recommending MTB provisions. On July 7, 2010, a manager’s amendment was introduced. The House passed H.R. 4380, the United States Manufacturing Enhancement Act of 2010, by a vote of 378-43 on July 21, 2010. The Senate subsequently passed the bill by unanimous consent on July 27, 2010, and it was signed by the President on August 11, 2010 (P.L. 111-227). On November 24, 2010, the discussion draft of the second MTB package was released by the Ways and Means Committee.


Date of Report: November 30, 2010
Number of Pages: 15
Order Number: RL33867
Price: $29.95

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