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Current Developments in U.S. Trade Negotiations

The key question for U.S. trade negotiations today concerns the entry of Japan, Canada, and Mexico into the TransPacific Partnership (TPP). In several recent issues the Washington Trade Report has examined how this is playing out in domestic U.S. trade politics. These countries' interests in joining the negotiations create opportunities for leverage. The U.S. negotiators appear to be trying to put maximum pressure on the negotiating groups to hurry the talks along, in part because the United States hopes to present as much of a fait accompli as possible to new entrants if and when they join the talks.

In an unusual departure from protocol, the United States will soon host a thirteenth round of TPP negotiations after having hosted the previous round in Dallas. This next meeting will take place July 2-10 in San Diego, California. One consequence of having multiple rounds in the United States is that this puts the U.S. negotiators in a better position to determine the format and timing of negotiations, taking full advantage of the host-country prerogatives. This has led to a few innovative and sometimes controversial experiments.

Members of Congress are mamking demands of their own. The most recent example came when the ranking Democratic members of the House Banking and Ways and Means committees wrote to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to demand that the TPP agreement include language allowing member countries to impose capital controls “as legitimate prudential financial measures to prevent and mitigate crises that should not be subject to investor claims under US trade and investment treaties.” Representatives Barney Frank (D-MA) and Sander Levin (D-MI) expressed dissatisfaction with responses from Obama administration officials, who told them that the TPP language on capital controls would be based on existing bilateral free trade agreements.

These and other developments in the TPP negotiations are covered in depth in the WTR. 

:: Discrimination and the WTO :: Free Trade Agreements of the United States :: Trade Preferences

The main provision of WTO law dealing with discrimination is Article XXIV of GATT 1947. It generally provides that WTO members may conclude free trade agreements and customs unions with one another, provided that they cover "substantially all trade" between the parties to the agreement (without precisely defining what "substantially all" means) and do not raise barriers to trade with thoird parties.

The rules that Article XXIV set were expanded upon in the Uruguay Round in the Understanding on the Interpretation of Article XXIV of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994, and later by the Transparency Mechanism on Regional Trade Agreements.

In the Doha Round, negotiations on discrimination are handled as part of the talks on "rules," as provided in Paragraph 29 of the Doha Ministerial Declaration. See the discussion of this issue in the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration.

The North American FTA (NAFTA) is the world's most economically significant FTA. Click below for links to hyperlinked versions of:

See also the text of the U.S.-Israel FTA, which entered into effect in 1985.

The links below lead to the pages on the USTR website for each of the FTAs that the United States has negotiated. Those pages offer PDF versions of the agreements and associated documents. The dates indicate the year that an agreement was approved by Congress.

 For more on the domestic politics of FTAs, especially the divisions between Republicans and Democrats over the linkage between trade, labor, and the environment, see the May 10 agreement.

The United States has four programs offering preferential access for imports from certain developing countries:

Most countries that benefit from one of the three special, regional programs are also beneficiaries of the GSP. The product coverage and other rules of those regional programs are more generous than those of the GSP.

Note that despite the stated objective in the Millennium Development Goals of providing duty-free, quota-free access for imports of all products from all least-developed countries, the United States extends such treatment only to the one LDC in the Americas (Haiti) and, through AGOA, to most LDCs in Africa; it has no such program in place for the Asia and Pacific LDCs.