Trade talks slow, include possibility of lower tariffs |

Trade talks slow, include possibility of lower tariffs

In signals that the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership negotiations will go slowly, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said this week that he will offer his own trade promotion authority bill, while TPP talks between U.S. and Japanese negotiators in Tokyo failed to produce major breakthroughs.

In a Tuesday speech to the American Apparel & Footwear Association, Wyden said, “I believe what’s needed to accomplish these things is different from a fast-track, or a ‘no-track,’ and this afternoon I’d like to call it a ‘smart-track.’ ”

Wyden said he would write his own bill rather than continue with the one that former Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., introduced earlier this year before resigning to become ambassador to China. Fast-track is the more traditional term for trade promotion authority.

“A smart-track will hold trade negotiators more accountable to the Congress, more accountable to the American people, and help ensure that trade agreements respond to their concerns of our people and their priorities, and not just to special interest groups,” Wyden said. “It will include procedures to get high-standard agreements through Congress, and procedures that enable Congress to right the ship if trade negotiators get off course.”

Reuters reported that two days of TPP talks between U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Japanese Economics Minister Akira Amari produced little progress. Reuters also reported, however, that Japan offered to reduce its tariff on U.S. beef from 38.5 percent to 10 percent, a much bigger reduction that the 19.5 percent tariff to which Australia has agreed.

“There was a bit of progress but big differences remain,” Agriculture Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi reiterated at a news conference on Friday.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit Japan on April 24.

–The Hagstrom Report