Congress could make decisions in 2014 that will shape the way the government handles trade agreements for years to come, according to a report in BGOV this week.  Legislation is in the works to renew fast-track negotiating authority; extend Trade Adjustment Assistance, a program that pays to retrain those left jobless when trade agreements led to plant closings; revive duty-free imports from developing countries; and keep the Export-Import Bank open beyond September 30.

In the past, once Congress has focused on trade legislation, several measures were rolled together in an omnibus. That happened in 2000 and 2002 as well as in 2010, when Congress extended Trade Adjustment Assistance programs. So the push for fast-track negotiating authority — something President Barack Obama wants — may lead to a wide-ranging trade bill. The timing’s right for trade to capture lawmakers’ attention as a deal nears on the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership and the talks heat up on a separate accord with the European Union, called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

Following are are three trade issues Congress will be considering in 2014:

Trade Promotion Authority (TPA):  Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus have reached a deal on new fast-track authority and are preparing to introduce legislation in January. Under fast track, trade agreements receive an up-or-down vote in Congress on a condensed schedule that limits debates and bars amendments. In exchange, Congress develops a set of negotiating principles the administration is expected to follow in trade talks.  Congress will have a lot to say about those negotiating principles. The last time it had the opportunity to have a comprehensive debate over trade policy was when President George W. Bush was granted TPA in 2002. That authority expired in 2007.  The dynamics within the Senate Finance Committee will be interesting as the current Chairman, Max Baucus (D-MT), has been nominated by President Obama to be ambassador to China and is the biggest question mark hanging over TPA.

Ron Wyden (D-OR), who is in line for the chairmanship is chairmen of the Finance Committee’s International Trade, Customs and Global Competitiveness Subcommittee, and in 2011, voted against a Republican attempt to renew the 2002 version of TPA.  Wyden told reporters on December 19 that he thinks it is “important there is more transparency associated with most types of trade agreements.” He also has called for more congressional involvement in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.

Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA): President Obama wants renewal of trade promotion authority to move in tandem with a reauthorization of Trade Adjustment Assistance, an aid program for workers who lose their jobs because of international trade.  The program, which pays for job training and extended unemployment insurance, is set to expire December 31, 2014. A version of the program that was expanded under the 2009 stimulus law extending benefits to services workers expired at the end of 2013.  Another factor to consider is Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the ranking Republican on Finance, has taken a dim view of moving fast-track alongside TAA. He and other Republicans have said that the aid program is ineffective and unfairly benefits one segment of workers.

Generalized System of Preferences (GSP): The largest U.S. trade-preference program expired in July 2013, raising customs bills for companies that use it to import goods duty-free from developing countries. The Generalized System of Preferences is designed to spur economic development in the low-income countries by encouraging U.S. companies to buy from those nations with a break on import tariffs.   However, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) put a hold on a Senate bill to renew the program because it would not pay for the tariff cuts until after the two-year extension had expired. Coburn called it a “budget gimmick.”

While GSP renewals historically have not been controversial, more recent extension efforts have been rockier, with senators objecting to spending levels or on behalf of individual companies. In 2011, the program was retroactively renewed after a 10-month lapse.