Portman, Coons Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Grant USTR Negotiating Authority to Strengthen World Trade Organization

February 28, 2022 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Chris Coons (D-DE) introduced bipartisan legislation, the Trading System Preservation (TSP) Actwhich will enable the United States to negotiate new trade agreements and advance the interests of U.S. businesses and workers within the World Trade Organization (WTO) system. The TSP Act would direct the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to negotiate trade agreements with like-minded partners in certain sectors of the economy and would help reinvigorate the WTO, which has been hamstrung for years by a small handful of Members obstructing negotiations. These sector-specific agreements would not be subject to Most Favored Nation (MFN) requirements. Generally, MFN requires a country to give its trading partners market access that is the same as the access the country gives to its most favored trading partner.

“The World Trade Organization has a lot of value to the United States, but it’s disappointing that at the WTO the United States has lost its ability to negotiate,” said Senator, and former U.S. Trade Representative, Portman. “My proposal gives USTR the authority it needs to negotiate new agreements, and by limiting those agreements to a subset of WTO members it means we can actually make progress on the development of new rules to combat non-market practices, and open new markets to U.S. exporters, without being stymied by a veto from countries which do not share the same interest in upholding a rules-based trading system.”

“Trade supports good jobs in Delaware, and negotiating forward-looking trade agreements will strengthen our economy and bring down costs for American consumers,” said Senator Coons. “Our bipartisan bill will allow us to lead ambitious negotiations with like-minded allies and partners, and to set the rules of the road for key sectors like digital services, pharmaceuticals, and environmental goods. I look forward to working with Senator Portman and our colleagues in Congress to advance this bill into law.”

While the WTO was created to be the primary forum for international trade negotiations, a small number of countries have abused the WTO’s rules to hamper trade negotiations and veto new agreements. Non-market economies such as China have prevented agreement on new, high-standard trade rules that would discipline their anti-competitive practices. Meanwhile, the WTO’s MFN requirements have made it challenging for more ambitious WTO Members to conclude plurilateral agreements among smaller groups of countries.

The TSP Act would address problems within the current multilateral trading system that have made it difficult for the United States and its partners to advance next-generation trade agreements by empowering the United States to negotiate agreements within the WTO with willing partners in certain sectors of the economy, like environmental goods, services, or digital trade. To incentivize countries to come to the table to negotiate in good faith, these agreements would not be subject to Most Favored Nation (MFN) requirements.