The new year brings with it a host of trade and related policy issues that have implications for business and FDI investment worldwide. Washington, DC-based National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) recently reviewed the issues and provided their take on what is likely to happen in 2014. Top on their list is the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill introduced in early January by the US Senate. NFTC is confident that TPA will become law this year.

TPA would allow US president Barack Obama to 'fast-track' key trade deals by limiting congress' ability to tack on amendments. An eventual passage of TPA would maximise the benefits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP).

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“Without the TPA other countries would be reluctant to finalise negotiations with the US for fear that any hard-won trade agreement could be undone through amendments in congress,” said NFTC president Bill Reinsch.

NFTC sees positive prospects for TPP and T-TIP. Charles Dittrick, NFTC's vice-president for regional trade initiatives, pointed out that trade ministers from TPP’s 12 partner economies showed good will when they met in Singapore in December 2013 to discuss stated goals.  “The fact this meeting occurred at all is a clear indication that all cards are still on the table,” said Mr Dittrick.

Holding TPP back, however, is Japan, which wants protections for rice, wheat, beef and poultry, dairy products, and sugar. Mr Dittrick expects bilateral meetings with Japan at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Mr Ditrrick reported that the outcome of T-TIP is harder to predict, but emphasised that negotiators on both sides are working towards a future process for rule making that takes the other sides’ competitiveness into account.

NFTC is positive about the World Trade Organisation's Bali Package that was reached in December 2013. The basis of that package is to lower import tariffs and agricultural subsidies to make it easier for developing countries to trade with the developed world in global markets. “I believe it will lead negotiators into 2015 and focus implementation on key priorities,” said Jake Colvin, NFTC's vice-president for global trade. 

Mr Colvin reported that he is not optimistic for an Information Technology Agreement (ITA) expansion, however. “That is unless China decides to come back with a better offer,” he added.

The ITA exempts certain high-tech products from tariffs, but China is demanding exemptions for nearly 140 products.