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Vote on U.S. Withdrawal from WTO Considered Likely

Vote on U.S. Withdrawal from WTO Considered Likely in Congress

Fact Sheet: USTR's March 1 Report on WTO Participation

(Vote on U.S. withdrawal considered likely in Congress) (500)

Washington -- By March 1 the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) should submit a report that will likely trigger a vote in Congress on whether the United States should remain a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Called the "sovereignty provision," section 125 of the 1994 Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA) requires the president every five years to submit to Congress a report on U.S. participation in the WTO more detailed than annual reports required in other years.

The first five-year report is due March 1. It must contain analysis on the benefits so far of U.S. participation in the WTO and a recommendation on the value of continued participation.

After delivery of the report, any member of the Senate or U.S. House of Representatives can introduce a joint resolution to withdraw the United States from the WTO.

Such a joint resolution is considered "privileged":

-- No leader or committee can prevent it from coming to a vote.

-- Congress must act on it within prescribed time limits.

-- Congress cannot amend it.

After March 1, Congress must vote on any section 125 resolution within 90 legislative days (days when Congress is not recessed or adjourned):

-- The committees with jurisdiction -- Ways and Means in the House, Finance in the Senate -- must report the resolution back to the House or Senate within 45 days of receiving it.

-- The committee can report it back with a recommendation for approving or rejecting it.

-- If the committee fails to report the bill on time, it is automatically discharged from the committee's jurisdiction.

To effect WTO withdrawal, both the House and Senate must pass the resolution and the president must sign it -- or the House and Senate can override the president's veto with two-thirds' majorities.

After a veto, Congress can vote to override the veto before the end of the 90-day period or within 15 days of receiving the veto message, whichever is longer.

Typically, the House considers trade measures before the Senate acts, and that will likely happen also in this case.

Given U.S. unhappiness with specific WTO panel rulings against the United States and failure by the European Union (EU) to comply with rulings in the bananas and beef hormones cases -- as well as considerable opposition to WTO participation more generally -- congressional leaders do expect introduction of a withdrawal resolution.

At a February 15 news conference, Republican House leaders expressed confidence that the House would defeat such a resolution.

"We feel very sanguine that we're going to have a strong vote in support of maintaining our membership in the WTO," said Representative David Dreier, Republican chairman of the House Rules Committee. "We're going to make sure that we have a strong win there."

(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: usinfo.state.gov)

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