WASHINGTON — The Senate has passed a $1 trillion omnibus spending bill that could restore funding to trade agencies struggling with cutbacks from steep budget cuts enacted last year.
The House passed the massive bipartisan measure on Wednesday on a vote of 359 to 67, and President Obama is expected to sign the bill after Senate passage. The fiscal 2014 budget year that ends Sept. 30 would restore and in some cases increase the funding for trade agencies at an active time for the White House trade agenda.
Across-the-board spending cuts, known as the sequester, went into effect in March when Congress and the White House failed to reach agreement on long-term spending cuts and deficit reduction. That impasse in Washington subsequently led to a 16-day government shutdown in October and brought the country to the brink of defaulting on the national debt. The steep cuts sliced into the budgets of trade agencies that negotiate and enforce trade deals, process billions of dollars of imports and inspect cargo for counterfeits and product safety.
The broad spending bill would restore funding for the U.S. Trade Representative’s office to $52.6 million from the $47.7 million 2013 sequester level. The funding will help boost USTR, which is aiming to wrap up negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership accord with 11 countries, including Vietnam, the second-largest apparel supplier to the U.S., and is also in the early stages of talks on a trade deal with the European Union, a key export market for U.S. products.
The International Trade Administration, a division of the Commerce Department that is leading Obama’s National Export Initiative and houses the Office of Textiles and Apparel, will receive funding of $470 million this fiscal year, an increase of $20 million from the 2013 sequester level. It provides funding of $16.4 million for China antidumping and countervailing duty enforcement and compliance activities.
The bill also gives guidance to the agency to provide $7.5 million to fund the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center, an effort to address unfair trade practices and barriers, and $7 million to SelectUSA, a new initiative seeking to attract more foreign investment in the U.S. The Customs and Border Protection agency, which inspects and seizes counterfeit goods shipped through U.S. ports, would see a budget increase of $715 million above the 2013 sequestration level to $10.58 billion.