Yesterday, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (“USTR”) officially notified Congress that it would be launching separate trade discussions with the European Union, Japan, and the United Kingdom.  The letters sent to Congress provide notice of the Administration’s intent to negotiate trade agreements with each partner as required by the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015, often referred to as Trade Promotion Authority (“TPA”).  USTR must wait at least 90 calendar days from yesterday’s notification to initiate negotiations, and must also publish specific negotiating objectives in the Federal Register at least 30 days before talks begin.

In addition to general negotiating objectives across numerous areas – including trade in goods, services, and agriculture; intellectual property; digital trade and cross-border data flows; labor and the environment; trade remedies; anti-corruption; and dispute settlement – TPA also establishes procedures for consultation with Congress and other stakeholders throughout trade agreement negotiations.  These procedures include required reports on certain aspects of the agreement prior to signing the agreement; Congressional notification 90 days before signature; release of the final agreement text 60 days before signature; and Congressional notification of expected changes to U.S. law 60-180 days before signature.  USTR also engages with public and private sector stakeholders through consultation with various policy- and sector-oriented trade advisory committees and through comment periods and hearings announced in the Federal Register.
Continue Reading U.S. Opens Trade Talks with EU, Japan, and the UK

The European Union and Japan have been working this week to wrap up a bilateral trade agreement with the goal of having most of a deal ahead of next week’s G20 summit in Hamburg.  The deal, which has been over 10 years in the making, would be one of the largest trade agreements to date, covering one quarter of the world’s economy between the two partners.  Key aspects of the agreement will provide greater market access to each party’s auto and machinery sectors, remove structural barriers to trade, create new rules for investment disputes, and reaffirm the parties’ commitment to the Paris climate accord (from which the United States has announced it will withdraw).

One sticking point has been Japan’s high tariffs – up to 40 percent – on imported cheese.  The EU claims about half of the global cheese market, while Japanese dairy farms struggle to survive.  Japan had already agreed to limited tariff reductions on selected cheese products in the course of the TPP negotiations, and has signaled it has no interest in going beyond those concessions.  Still, negotiators for each side are working hard to overcome these hurdles and have a final agreement in place by the end of 2017.
Continue Reading Japan: The Belle of the Bilateral Ball?