“This is a vital first step toward achieving trade agreements that will secure greater access to foreign markets for our member companies’ electrical equipment and medical imaging products,” said NEMA President Malcolm O’Hagan, following the Senate’s 64-34 passage of the bipartisan conference report for H.R. 3009. “NEMA and its members have worked hard alongside our counterparts in the business community and our allies in the Bush Administration and Congress for 18 months to reach this point. We will build on this victory, continuing to support President Bush and U.S. Trade Representative Zoellick as they push for new bilateral, regional, and global free trade agreements.”
Since early 2001, NEMA officials and staff have met with scores of representatives, senators, and their staffs as the TPA legislation was prepared and wound its way through the legislative processes in both houses of Congress. NEMA was an active member of the High-Tech Coalition on Trade Promotion Authority, as well as the broad USTrade Coalition.
The package of trade legislation passed by the Senate gives the Bush Administration trade promotion authority (formerly known as “fast track” negotiating authority) for three years. Washington can use it, for example, to reduce or eliminate tariffs as part of reciprocal market-opening trade deals, expand the country and product coverage of the Information Technology Agreement, seek to eliminate burdensome and discriminatory non-tariff barriers, achieve greater transparency in the regulatory environment, and seek liberalization commitments from World Trade Organization members on government procurement and trade in energy services. While the White House is obliged to consult with Congress extensively over the course of negotiations, final trade agreements submitted to Congress under TPA may only be approved or rejected--not amended. This provides foreign governments assurance that Congress will not rewrite the deals they strike with the U.S. negotiators.
“Over the last eight years, since the last time the U.S. had ‘fast track’, other countries have been striking free trade agreements and securing preferential market access while the U.S. has sat on the sidelines,” O’Hagan said. “TPA will allow the U.S. to reclaim leadership in the WTO and FTAA talks scheduled to wrap up by 2005 and pursue some important bilateral agreements along the way.”
Free trade agreements with Chile and Singapore could be wrapped up by the end of the year and submitted to Congress for approval in 2003. Furthermore, Ambassador Zoellick has indicated that he will waste no time in launching free trade negotiations with Central American nations and would also like to open talks with Morocco, South Africa and its neighbors, and Australia as soon as possible. This said, the larger targets remain the World Trade Organization and Free Trade Area of the Americas, where U.S. negotiators will now be able to take more initiative.
One of NEMA’s fundamental goals is the worldwide elimination of tariffs on electrical, electronic, and medical imaging equipment. NEMA supports achievement of this objective through initiatives such as WTO zero-for-zero tariff elimination, regional agreements such as the FTAA, and bilateral free trade agreements. NEMA member product sales abroad exceed $30 billion, and have grown rapidly over the last 10 years, thanks in large part to trade liberalization.