Ways and Means Democrats Introduce Legislation to Reform and Renew Key U.S. Trade Programs

Jun 17, 2021
Press Release
These pro-worker bills modernize and reauthorize Trade Adjustment Assistance, the Generalized System of Preferences, and the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Ways and Means Committee Democrats, led by Trade Subcommittee Chairman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), introduced two bills to reform U.S. trade policies in a manner that delivers for workers, businesses, and the country’s most economically vulnerable trading partners. The pieces of legislation modernize and reauthorize the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) programs, the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB), and the American Manufacturing Competitiveness Act of 2016 (AMCA). Notably, the bills also address significant shortcomings in recently passed Senate legislation, including that package’s failure to reauthorize TAA, fix the GSP eligibility criteria and transparency provisions, and address loopholes in the MTB process that benefit China. 

“It’s long past time for Congress to modernize these programs and ensure they are inclusive, reflect our nation’s values, and align with our current trade policies,” said Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA). “These Ways and Means bills revamp support provided to U.S. workers impacted by trade and create more equitable economic outcomes while also assuming a more strategic posture towards China. Democrats fought hard to ensure the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) included groundbreaking labor and environment provisions – today’s legislation reaffirms our commitment to those priorities. I applaud Subcommittee Chairman Blumenauer for his leadership in crafting these bills, and I appreciate the thoughtful contributions of other Ways and Means Democrats, including Reps. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Terri Sewell (D-AL), Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Dan Kildee (D-MI), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), and Steven Horsford (D-NV).”

“For far too long, we’ve underinvested and neglected our worker retraining programs, overlooked the inconsistencies and deficiencies in our preference programs, and automatically renewed trade programs without considering their role in our broader policy goals. It’s time to end this rubberstamp system of governing,” Subcommittee Chairman Blumenauer said. “These bold trade bills reflect equitable and inclusive policies, supporting a cohesive and consistent agenda. The updates are an important step toward remedying long-standing program inefficiencies and aligning our trade policies to better serve the needs of American workers and global communities.”

The TAA Modernization Act of 2021 updates Trade Adjustment Assistance programs to support Americans facing hardship due to international competition. Originally established by Congress in the 1960s, TAA in its current form can no longer meet the needs of today’s U.S. workforce or adequately respond to modern crises like the COVID economic downturn. This legislation reauthorizes the TAA for Workers, TAA for Firms, and TAA for Farmers programs for seven years and addresses shortcomings by expanding eligibility, increasing funding, improving benefits (such as providing for childcare expenses), and streamlining federal and state administration. It also establishes the TAA for Communities program, reinjects funding into the popular and successful TAA for Community Colleges program, requires new outreach to historically underserved communities, and mandates innovative data collection on worker outcomes by race to better inform future policy making.

The Generalized System of Preferences and Miscellaneous Tariff Bill Modernization Act of 2021 extends the GSP through December 31, 2024 and provides retroactive benefits. The GSP is an outdated program that inadequately addresses serious labor violations, omits criteria related to the environment, lacks needed transparency, and fails to meet the standards of our more recent preference programs. This legislation modernizes the program’s eligibility criteria by adding an environmental criterion and updating the labor criteria. It adds new criteria on human rights, rule of law, anti-corruption, and equitable economic development. It also adds new annual country eligibility reviews and transparency requirements while enhancing public access and participation in the program. 

The Generalized System of Preferences and Miscellaneous Tariff Bill Modernization Act of 2021 suspends and reduces duties on certain eligible imports based on recommendations from the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) through December 31, 2023, retroactive for four months. The bill also reauthorizes the American Manufacturing Competitiveness Act of 2016 (AMCA) for two cycles and makes administrative improvements to the AMCA process, such as granting the USITC sufficient time to assess the effects of the MTB on the U.S. economy. The legislation aims to support domestic manufacturers and limit benefits for imports from China by excluding finished products from future MTB cycles. 

“Among the important features of this legislation is a proposal to add environmental criteria to the Generalized System of Preferences that I have been advocating for more than a decade,” said Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Doggett. “GSP can be a positive force for a healthier environment. Countries that endanger the health of their citizens and our planet by failing to effectively enforce environmental obligations should not be granted special trade preferences.”

"In our rapidly changing world, TAA has been a lifeline to so many workers in Washington state and across the country helping them retrain and reskill, keep health coverage, and pay their bills. This program needs to be quickly reauthorized so those negatively impacted by trade and international competition can find new opportunities,” said Rep. DelBene. "Critically, this legislation provides benefits that adapt to our changing economy, allowing more workers to access TAA and extending benefits during economic downturns so workers and their families aren't left out in the cold."

“Caring for a child is a full-time job, and we need to provide parents with the right support to pursue job training or relocate to take advantage of new job opportunities through Trade Adjustment Assistance,” said Rep. Moore. “That’s why I am proud to be leading the effort to create a new childcare allowance, so that parents can better access TAA to help them provide for themselves and their family.”

“When a large business—such as a manufacturing factory—closes due to trade, it is not just the workers and the company that suffer, the entire community is impacted. Existing Trade Adjustment Assistance programs don’t do enough to support communities impacted by trade,” said Rep. Kildee. “This bill fills that gap by creating a first step in the path forward for our industrial communities by delivering strong federal support for cities and towns, and by expanding Trade Adjustment Assistance programs to help more Americans, including Michiganders in my district, negatively impacted by trade. I thank Chairman Blumenauer for including my provision to support communities impacted by trade in this bill.” 

Additional Resources:

A fact sheet on racial and economic equity-related provisions in the bills can be found HERE

TAA Modernization Act of 2021

A fact sheet on the legislation is available HERE
FAQs on the bill can be found HERE
A section-by-section summary is available HERE
Full text of the bill may be read HERE

Generalized System of Preferences and Miscellaneous Tariff Bill Modernization Act of 2021

A fact sheet on the bill can be found HERE
Full text of the legislation is available HERE.