Trade issues remain on the minds of many members of the U.S. Congress as House of Representatives Republican leaders blame Democrats for holding up a bill that would normalize trade relations with Russia. Meanwhile, both China and the U.S. are taking separate trade complaints to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The legislation would lift Cold War-era restrictions, allowing American businesses to benefit from the reduced tariffs that come with Russia's entrance into the WTO last month.
The bill had not been scheduled for a vote, according to Republican leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), because a bipartisan coalition was not considered necessary to pass the measure. "We'd be willing to bring this up, wanted to bring this up under suspension and work in cooperation with the Democrats," Cantor said. "Unfortunately, to date we have not seen this president stand up and says he supports this."
Democrats concede that President Obama’s leadership is needed to wrangle more Democratic support in the House before Republicans will bring the measure to the floor.
Possible sticking points include human rights concerns and union opposition. The Russian trade bill passed out of the House Ways and Means Committee with the understanding that it would be paired with human rights legislation.
Meanwhile, the trade skirmish between the U.S. and China heated up as the two nations filed dueling complaints at the WTO. In its WTO filing, the United States accuses China of providing at least $1 billion worth of subsidies from 2009 to 2011 for worldwide exports of cars and auto parts. While $1 billion may sound like a large number, Chinese exports of automobiles and auto parts totaled $56 billion during this period, according to Chinese customs data.
The Chinese complaint cites a long-running legal battle in U.S. courts waged by importers over whether the Commerce Department's methodology in calculating anti-subsidy tariffs results in double-counting for nonmarket economies like China's when imports from the same country are also subject to anti-dumping tariffs.