News Feature | January 21, 2014

Water Industry Considers New Trade Bill

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Wastewater equipment makers are scrutinizing a new trade bill introduced on Capitol Hill. 

The Water & Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA) "has been asked by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to consider issuing a statement of support for the bill," according to a recent bulletin from the group. 

WWEMA is studying the bill and will update member companies on its determinations.   

The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014 was introduced this month by the  leaders of the Senate Finance Committee and the top House Way and Means Committee member. 

The bill aims to establish new goods and services objectives, update environmental and labor standards to reflect recent trade agreements, and strengthen rules for agriculture, among other objectives. 

"Updated provisions seek robust and enforceable rules on sanitary and phytosanitary measures and address improper use of geographical indications," said a summary of the bill written by congressional staffers. 

The fight to pass the trade bill could get contentious.

It is expected to "set the stage for a potential election-year battle between the president and many of his fellow Democrats in Congress," according to Politico

"The legislation also marks the start of what could be a momentous battle pitting the Obama administration and corporate interests that support free trade against an odd alliance of liberal Democrats who worry about the negative effects of trade deals on U.S. jobs and the environment and tea party Republicans who could oppose giving Obama more power," the report said. 

It is becoming clearer where various political camps fall on this legislation. 

"Business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National of Association of Manufacturers and Business Roundtable cheered the bill, while a number of labor, environmental and consumer groups, including the Sierra Club and Public Citizen, vowed to fight it," Politico said. 

The Sierra Club described what it saw as potential negative consequences of the bill.

The group contended that it "strips Congress of its defining democratic characteristic -- its check-and-balance structure. If Congress is not able to fully debate and, if necessary, amend the language of these all-encompassing trade pacts, the environment, our climate, and our families could suffer as a result."

For more about the government's influence on the water sector, check out Water Online's Regulations and Legislation Solution Center