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Administration Takes Significant Step Toward Congressional Approval of USMCA
On May 30, 2019, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) submitted to Congress the draft Statement of Administrative Action (SAA) for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The SAA describes what administrative steps are necessary for the U.S. government to implement the agreement. This is an important step for Congress to consider the legislation needed to enact the USMCA under the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) statute. If the requirements of TPA are met, such as sending Congress the draft SAA, then the implementing legislation is eligible under TPA for expedited consideration by Congress without amendment.
Under TPA, the Administration must now wait at least 30 days before sending a draft of the implementing legislation. This would formally kick-off Congress’ consideration of the legislation. TPA, however, further requires that this must be done on a day when both Chambers of Congress are in session. As a result, the earliest that the draft legislation could be sent to Congress is July 9, which is the first day that both Chambers are currently scheduled to be in session after the 30-day clock expires.
Nonetheless, it is likely that the draft implementing legislation will be sent after July 9 as the Administration continues to work with Congress to address Members’ concerns. The SAA for past trade agreements has often been used to set out how Congressional concerns will be addressed, so the USMCA’s draft SAA will likely be a focus of the negotiations between the Administration and Congress. In addition, though not required by TPA, the House Ways & Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee will likely also want to hold “mock mark-ups” to consider the draft USMCA implementing legislation and offer amendments before the draft legislation is formally submitted. This has traditionally been done for past agreements so that the Congressional Committees with primary jurisdiction over trade maintain their prerogative to review and amend trade legislation.