Text: H.R.548 — 110th Congress (2007-2008)All Information (Except Text)

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Introduced in House (01/18/2007)


110th CONGRESS
1st Session
H. R. 548


To establish a Congressional Trade Office.


IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

January 18, 2007

Mr. DeFazio (for himself, Mr. Michaud, Mr. Allen, Ms. Lee, Ms. Jackson-Lee of Texas, Ms. Slaughter, Ms. Kaptur, Mr. Welch of Vermont, Mr. Costello, Ms. Sutton, Mr. Hinchey, Mr. Hall of New York, Mr. Lipinski, Mr. Melancon, Mr. Wu, and Mrs. Tauscher) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means


A BILL

To establish a Congressional Trade Office.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. Findings.

Congress makes the following findings:

(1) Congress has responsibility under the Constitution for international commerce.

(2) Congressional oversight of trade policy has often been hampered by a lack of resources.

(3) The United States has entered into numerous trade agreements with foreign trading partners, including bilateral, regional, and multilateral agreements.

(4) Foreign country performance under certain agreements has been less than contemplated, and in some cases rises to the level of noncompliance.

(5) The credibility of, and support for, the United States Government’s trade policy is, to a significant extent, a function of the belief that trade agreements made are trade agreements enforced.

(6) The accession of the People’s Republic of China to the World Trade Organization will create unprecedented challenges and it is important to the world trading system that China comply with the numerous and significant commitments China makes as part of the accession process. Congress must play a key role in ensuring full and continuous monitoring of the People’s Republic of China’s compliance with its commitments.

SEC. 2. Establishment of Office.

(a) In General.—There is established an office in Congress to be known as the Congressional Trade Office (in this Act referred to as the “Office”).

(b) Purposes.—The purposes of the Office are as follows:

(1) To reassert the constitutional responsibility of Congress with respect to international trade.

(2) To provide Congress with additional independent, nonpartisan, neutral trade expertise.

(3) To assist Congress in providing more effective and active oversight of trade policy.

(4) To assist Congress in providing to the executive branch more effective direction on trade policy.

(5) To provide Congress with long-term, institutional memory on trade issues.

(6) To provide Congress with more analytical capability on trade issues.

(7) To advise relevant committees on the impact of trade negotiations, including past, ongoing, and future negotiations, with respect to the areas of jurisdiction of the respective committees.

(c) Functions.—The functions of the Office are as follows:

(1) ASSISTANCE TO CONGRESS.—To provide the appropriate committees of Congress or joint committees of Congress information which will assist the committees in the discharge of the matters within their jurisdiction.

(2) MONITOR COMPLIANCE.—To monitor compliance with major bilateral, regional, and multilateral trade agreements by—

(A) consulting with the affected industries and interested parties;

(B) analyzing the success of those agreements based on the effect of the agreements on specific industries and the economy;

(C) recommending actions, including legislative action, necessary to ensure that foreign countries that have made commitments through those agreements with the United States fully abide by their commitments;

(D) annually assessing the extent to which those agreements comply with environmental goals; and

(E) annually assessing the extent to which those agreements comply with labor goals.

(3) ANALYSES.—

(A) IN GENERAL.—To perform the following analyses:

(i) By not later than 60 days after the date the national trade policy agenda is delivered to Congress each year under section 163(a) of the Trade Act of 1974 (19 U.S.C. 2213(a)), to analyze that agenda, including alternative goals, strategies, and tactics, as appropriate.

(ii) By not later than 60 days after the date the National Trade Estimate report is delivered to Congress each year under section 181(b) of the Trade Act of 1974 (19 U.S.C. 2241(b)), to analyze the major outstanding trade barriers based on cost to the United States economy.

(iii) To analyze the overall trade balance of the United States and the trade balances of the United States with the major trading partners of the United States.

(B) ANALYSES REQUESTED BY COMMITTEE.—To perform analyses relating to trade as directed by any committee which will assist the committee in the discharge of the matters within the committee’s jurisdiction, including, but not limited to—

(i) analyzing proposed trade legislation;

(ii) analyzing proposed trade agreements, including agreements that do not require implementing legislation; and

(iii) analyzing the impact of the trade policy and actions of the executive branch, including assessing the decisions not to accept unfair trade practices cases.

(4) DISPUTE SETTLEMENT DELIBERATIONS.—To perform the following functions with respect to dispute resolution:

(A) Participate as observers on the United States delegation at dispute settlement panel meetings of the World Trade Organization.

(B) Evaluate the results obtained by the United States in dispute settlement proceedings at the World Trade Organization, under the North American Free Trade Agreement, and under any trade agreement entered into after the enactment of this Act, including the effect of the outcome of the proceedings on specific industries and the economy.

(5) PARTICIPATION IN TRADE NEGOTIATIONS.—To participate as observers in bilateral, regional, and multilateral trade negotiations.

(6) OTHER FUNCTIONS OF THE OFFICE.—

(A) To provide Congress with quarterly reports regarding the activities of the Office.

(B) To be available for consultation with congressional committees on trade-related legislation.

(C) To perform such other functions relating to trade as the chairman and ranking member of the Committee on Finance of the Senate and the chairman and ranking member of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives may request.

(d) Additional Authorities.—In carrying out its functions, the Office may—

(1) receive and review classified information and participate in classified briefings in the same manner as the staff of the Committee on Finance of the Senate and the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives; and

(2) consult nongovernmental experts and use nongovernmental resources.

(e) Director and Staff.—

(1) DIRECTOR.—

(A) IN GENERAL.—There shall be at the head of the Office a Director. The Director shall be appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate after considering the recommendations of the chairman and ranking member of the Committee on Finance of the Senate and the chairman and ranking member of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives. The Director shall be chosen without regard to political affiliation and solely on the basis of the Director’s expertise and fitness to perform the duties of the Director.

(B) TERM.—The term of office of the Director shall be 5 years and the Director may be reappointed for subsequent terms.

(C) VACANCY.—Any individual appointed as Director to fill a vacancy occurring before the expiration of the term for which the individual’s predecessor was appointed shall be appointed only for the remainder of that term.

(D) REMOVAL.—The Director may be removed by either House of Congress by resolution.

(E) COMPENSATION.—The Director shall receive compensation at the annual rate of pay in effect for level III of the Executive Schedule under section 5314 of title 5, United States Code.

(2) STAFF.—

(A) IN GENERAL.—The Director shall appoint and fix the compensation of such personnel as may be necessary to carry out the duties and functions of the Office. All personnel shall be appointed without regard to political affiliation and solely on the basis of their fitness to perform their duties. The personnel of the Office shall consist of individuals with expertise in international trade, including expertise in economics, trade law, various industrial sectors, and various geographical regions.

(B) BENEFITS.—For purposes of pay (other than the pay of the Director) and employment, benefits, rights, and privileges, all personnel of the Office shall be treated as if they were employees of the House of Representatives.

(3) EXPERTS AND CONSULTANTS.—In carrying out the duties and functions of the Office, the Director may procure the temporary (not to exceed 1 year) or intermittent services of experts or consultants or organizations thereof by contract as independent contractors, or, in the case of individual experts or consultants, by employment at rates of pay not in excess of the daily equivalent of the highest rate of basic pay payable under the General Schedule under section 5332 of title 5, United States Code.

(4) RELATIONSHIP TO EXECUTIVE BRANCH.—The Director may secure information, data, estimates, and statistics directly from any department, agency, or establishment of the executive branch of Government and any regulatory agency or commission of the Government. All such departments, agencies, establishments, and regulatory agencies and commissions shall furnish the Director any available material which the Director determines to be necessary in the performance of his or her duties and functions (other than material the disclosure of which would be a violation of law). The Director may, upon agreement with the head of any such department, agency, establishment, or regulatory agency or commission, use its services and facilities with or without reimbursement; and the head of each such department, agency, establishment, or regulatory agency or commission may provide such services and facilities to the Office.

(5) RELATIONSHIP TO OTHER AGENCIES OF CONGRESS.—In carrying out the duties and functions of the Office, and for the purpose of coordinating the operations of the Office with those of other congressional agencies in order to use most effectively the information, services, and capabilities of all such agencies in carrying out the responsibilities assigned to each, the Director may obtain information, data, estimates, and statistics developed by the Government Accountability Office, the Library of Congress, and other offices of Congress, and (upon agreement with them) may utilize their services and facilities with or without reimbursement. The Comptroller General, the Librarian of Congress, and the head of such other offices of Congress are authorized to provide the Office with the information, data, estimates, statistics, services, and facilities referred to in the preceding sentence.

SEC. 3. Public access to data.

(a) In General.—Except as provided in subsections (b) and (c), the Director—

(1) shall post on an Office website all information, data, estimates, and statistics obtained under this Act;

(2) shall make such information, data, estimates, and statistics available for public copying during normal business hours, subject to reasonable rules and regulations; and

(3) shall to the extent practicable, at the request of any person, furnish a copy of any such information, data, estimates, or statistics upon payment by such person of the cost of making and furnishing such copy.

(b) Exceptions.—

(1) BASIS FOR WITHHOLDING INFORMATION.—Information, data, estimates, and statistics may be withheld from disclosure under subsection (a) only to the extent that such information, data, estimates, or statistics (as the case may be)—

(A) are specifically exempted from disclosure by law; or

(B) as determined by the Director, will disclose—

(i) matters necessary to be kept secret in the interests of national defense or the confidential conduct of the foreign relations of the United States;

(ii) information relating to trade secrets or financial or commercial information pertaining specifically to a given person if the information has been obtained by the Government on a confidential basis, other than through an application by such person for a specific financial or other benefit, and is required to be kept secret in order to prevent undue injury to the competitive position of such person; or

(iii) personnel or medical data or similar data the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.

(2) NOTICE OF WITHHELD INFORMATION.—The Director shall provide notice to the public of each instance in which information has been withheld from disclosure under paragraph (1), including a description of the information, and shall provide an opportunity for the public to petition the Director to reconsider the determination to withhold disclosure of the information.

(c) Information Obtained for Committees and Members.—Subsection (a) of this section shall apply to any information, data, estimates, and statistics obtained at the request of any committee, joint committee, or Member except to the extent that such committee, joint committee, or Member has instructed the Director not to make such information, data, estimates, or statistics available for public copying.

SEC. 4. Authorization of appropriations.

There are authorized to be appropriated to the Office for each fiscal year such sums as may be necessary to enable the Office to carry out its duties and functions. Until sums are first appropriated pursuant to the preceding sentence, for a period not to exceed 12 months following the effective date of this section, the expenses of the Office shall be paid from the contingent fund of the Senate, in accordance with the provisions of the paragraph relating to contingent funds under the heading “UNDER LEGISLATIVE” in the Act of October 2, 1888 (25 Stat. 546; 2 U.S.C. 68), and upon vouchers approved by the Director.


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