Senate Approves Cantwell-Backed Trade Enforcement Bill

Legislation includes Cantwell provision that would establish fund to strengthen enforcement of free trade agreements

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate passed the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, which includes a provision authored by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) that would increase resources to agencies in charge of enforcing international trade agreements.

The legislation, introduced by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), includes a Cantwell-authored amendment that creates a fund jointly managed by the U.S. Trade Representative and the State Department for the enforcement of Free Trade Agreements. It would be supported by existing revenue from anti-dumping and countervailing fees.

Under Cantwell’s amendment, a portion of anti-dumping and countervailing duty collections (AD/CVD), up to $30 million, would be transferred to the Trust Fund. The Trust Fund could be used for enforcement of free trade agreements; implementation and enforcement of World Trade Organization obligations to which the United States is a party, and assistance to trading partners with the implementation and enforcement of Free Trade Agreements, with priority given to environmental, labor and intellectual property standards.

During the last five fiscal years, the U.S. has averaged $442 million in (AD/CVD) collections, which go to the U.S. Treasury’s General Fund.

“We must ensure our trading partners play by the rules and live up to their commitments,” said Cantwell, a member of the Senate Finance Committee. “Otherwise, these trade agreements aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.                                   

The Senate approved the legislation, 78-20. It is among a series of trade bills considered in conjunction with the Senate’s procedural vote Thursday to move forward with debate on “fast-track” trade legislation.

A recent report by the Government Accountability Office showed significant weaknesses in the U.S. Trade Representative and the Department of Labor’s ability to adequately monitor and enforce the labor provisions of Free Trade Agreements.

GAO found that USTR has four people in its office of Labor Affairs, who in addition to enforcing the labor provisions of Free Trade Agreements, were also responsible for negotiating them. They relied on the Department of Labor and State for day-to-day monitoring. DOL had five to eight full time staff in their Monitoring and Enforcement of Trade Agreements Division. “Between DOL and USTR, we had fewer staff enforcing the labor protections in our trade deals than the number of countries we have Free Trade Agreements with,” Cantwell said.

Washington state is the third largest exporter in the country. Washington’s aerospace industry supports nearly 140,000 jobs and exports about $60 billion. The state’s agriculture and food industry generates $49 billion and employs more than 160,000 people.