[Excerpt] Congress plays a major role in U.S. trade policy through its legislative and oversight authority. There are a number of major trade issues that are currently the focus of Congress. For example, bills were introduced in the 113th Congress to reauthorize Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), and the U.S. Export-Import Bank. Congress has also been involved with proposed free trade agreements (FTAs), including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) involving the United States and 11 other countries and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between with United States and the European Union (EU). Also of interest to Congress are current plurilateral negotiations for a Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) and a new multilateral Information Technology (ITA) agreement in the World Trade Organization (WTO). Trade and investment policies of major U.S. trading partners (such as China), especially when they are deemed harmful to U.S. economic interests, are also of continued concern to Congress. Events in the Ukraine have prompted U.S. trade sanctions against Russia. The costs and benefits of trade to the U.S. economy, firms, workers, and constituents, and the future direction of U.S. trade policy, are hotly debated topics in Congress.
This report provides information and context for these and many other trade topics. It is intended to assist Members and staff who may be new to trade issues. The report is divided into four sections in a question-and-answer format: trade concepts; U.S. trade performance; formulation of U.S. trade policy; and trade and investment issues. Additional suggested readings are provided in an appendix.