Customs Bill Passes Congress

February 17, 2016

pic-export-shippingOn Feb. 11, the Senate passed the bipartisan, bicameral trade Conference Report for H.R. 644, the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act, marking the largest legislative reform in customs and enforcement policy in nearly 20 years. The measure, which was authored in the Senate by Finance leaders, Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), authorizes U.S. Customs and Border Protection and puts in place effective tools to strengthen trade enforcement at the border and facilitate the efficient movement of legitimate trade and travel.

H.R. 644, which passed the Senate by a vote of 75-20, will bring the U.S. customs system into the 21st century and streamline procedure and clearance processes at the border to help keep American job creators competitive across the globe. The House took action in December 2015, passing the legislation with bipartisan support.

Specifically, the legislation authorizes the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and improves the flow of legitimate trade by modernizing the automated import and export system. The legislation also significantly buttresses enforcement of U.S. trade remedy laws to ensure that U.S. industries can compete on a level playing field by improving transparency, accountability and coordination in enforcement efforts, as well as provides unprecedented new tools to address unfair currency practices. The conference report creates a new, binding mechanism to confront countries that engage in unfair currency practices and requires the administration to impose penalties on countries that fail to work with the U.S.

The measure establishes the Interagency Center on Trade Implementation, Monitoring, and Enforcement at the United States Trade Representative (USTR) which will bring together expertise from across government agencies to aid in monitoring and enforcing U.S. trade agreements. This codifies into law a 2012 Executive Order that first created the interagency approach to boosting enforcement efforts. The bill also strengthens our ability to enforce intellectual property rights by creating a National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center and setting staffing and training requirements that enhance the federal government’s enforcement of IP rights at our borders.

In addition to the trade enforcement provisions, H.R. 644 included the Internet Tax Freedom Forever Act, bipartisan legislation to permanently ban the internet tax.

President Barack Obama intends to sign H.R.644 into law to help strengthen enforcement of the rules and level the playing field for American workers and businesses.

The full version of the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act, HR 644, is available here.

NSBA supports H.R. 644 as it is an important milestone in our overall trade agenda, and provides essential reforms for U.S. businesses and workers who depend on effective enforcement of trade remedies to compete globally and access foreign markets. It also takes necessary steps to improve U.S. security by deepening cooperation between enforcement agencies and rights-holders.