Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) and Its Role in U.S. Trade Policy [Augusts 11, 2011]   [open pdf - 310KB]

"Congress created Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) in the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 to help workers and firms adjust to economic dislocation caused by trade liberalization. Although most economists agree that there are substantial national gains from trade, supporters of TAA argue that the government has an obligation to help those hurt by policy-driven trade opening. In addition, as an alternative to policies that might otherwise restrict imports, it can provide assistance, while supporting freer trade. Often controversial, it is still strongly debated some 50 years later on equity, efficiency, and budgetary grounds. Despite disagreement, TAA still appears to be important for forging a compromise on national trade policy. Nonetheless, the legislative fortunes of TAA have ebbed and flowed. When TAA remained a cornerstone of major trade legislation as it was in 1962, 1974, and 2002, it received long reauthorizations and increased programmatic and funding support from Congress. When isolated from its main policy rationale, as was the case at times during the budget-cutting 1980s, TAA sometimes struggled to achieve short-term extensions and maintain funding levels when faced with strong political opposition. TAA was most recently expanded in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, although the higher funding levels and program enhancements expired in February 2011, leaving TAA programs to operate at pre-ARRA levels until 2012, when all TAA program authorizations are scheduled to expire. The 112th Congress is considering legislative action to extend TAA."

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CRS Report for Congress, R41922
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