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House Bill Boosts Trade Agency Spending

Spending measure adds funds for trade enforcement.

WASHINGTON — The House Appro-priations Committee approved a $64.4 billion spending bill Tuesday that would boost the budgets of the nation’s two top trade agencies and also recommended the Obama administration increase funding for China enforcement offices and trade remedy oversight.

The committee approved the bill by voice vote and sent it to the full House, which is slated to take it up on Tuesday. The Senate will also craft its own spending bill for these agencies and the two bills will then have to be reconciled in conference.

The bill reflects the majority Democrats’ emphasis on continuing to reshape the trade agenda by tightening up the enforcement of U.S. trade remedy laws and hews closely to the Obama administration’s own budget request and trade agenda. It would increase the funding for the U.S. Trade Representative’s office to $48.3 million for fiscal year 2010 from the $47.2 million enacted in fiscal year 2009. USTR negotiates free trade agreements and files unfair trade cases against foreign countries.

The House spending measure would also increase the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration by 3 percent to $444.5 million over the $429.9 million budget in fiscal year 2009. The Import Administration, a division of the ITA, is responsible for monitoring textiles and apparel, and investigating antidumping and countervailing duty trade cases.

House lawmakers urged the Obama administration in a nonbinding report accompanying the spending bill to designate a minimum of $7 million for Commerce’s Office of China Compliance in fiscal year 2010, an increase of $1.1 million over fiscal year 2009. The panel also recommended a $200,000 increase in funds to $4.4 million for the China Countervailing Duty Group within the Import Administration.

“All of the signs have been pointing for some time now that we’re going to see more initiatives from a compliance perspective and more efforts to review compliance with China to make sure China is meeting its requirements,” said Stephen Lamar, executive vice president at the American Apparel & Footwear Association. “This [funding] seems to put the money behind where a lot of rhetoric has been.”

Lamar said House lawmakers are directing funding into trade remedy offices in expectation of increased demand in antidumping and countervailing duty cases in the wake of a Commerce decision that allowed cases to be filed against nonmarket economies such as China.

“The committee is concerned that the current part of tariff reduction negotiations under the Doha Round will result in a nonreciprocal arrangement detrimental to United States manufacturers,” the panel stated in the report.

Auggie Tantillo, executive director of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, said textile groups have asked Congress to continue to press for equal tariff cuts among all developing countries, particularly China, on textile and apparel imports in the global trade round.

“We hope this administration pays attention to it, unlike the previous one,” said Tantillo.

The textile industry would also receive some funding, at much lower levels than in the past, in the spending bill for university consortiums that link the textile and fiber industries to leading research and educational programs, including the National Textile Center, slated to receive $1.8 million in funding, and the Textile/Clothing Technology Corp., a supply chain consortium slated to receive $965,000. In total, the bill proposes $3.7 million in funding for textile research programs, significantly below the $13.5 million a coalition of industry groups requested in a letter to Congress in February.