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December 7, 2015

As Customs Bill Finally Heads To Conference Committee, Decision On Senate Currency Language Coming Soon – MSCI Members Must Act Now

Last week, the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee finally appointed lawmakers to a conference committee to work out differences between the House and Senate’s versions of customs reauthorization legislation. (The Senate Finance Committee appointed its representatives to the committee this summer.) 

In a statement naming the conferees, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) “specifically highlighted the importance of including a stronger means to fight currency manipulation and evasion of trade remedy duties” and said he is “committed to working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to produce a robust bipartisan package as soon as possible.” Chairman Brady will serve on the conference committee along with Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI), Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH), Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA) and Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA). 

According to Politico, Ranking Member Levin listed “currency as an outstanding issue and reiterated Democratic demands to retain language Sen. Chuck Schumer secured in the Senate version of the bill that would strengthen efforts to fight currency manipulation through countervailing duties.” Rep. Levin said, “We've been trying to get a currency provision that is considerably stronger, something more meaningful than in the [House] bill.” The language written by Sen. Schumer would require the executive branch to examine whether countries are manipulating their currency when investigating whether to impose protective duties for unfair trade practices. On the House floor last week, Democrats attempted to send formal instructions to the conference committee asking them to adopt the Schumer provision. That effort failed on a 193 to 232 vote with just 17 Republicans supporting it. 

MSCI members are asked to lend their voice to this fight by calling members of the conference committee to tell them to adopt the Senate currency language. Members can find contact information for Reps. Brady, Levin, Tiberi, Reichert and Sanchez here. The Senate conferees are: Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX), Sen. John Thune (R-SD), Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Their contact information can also be found at the link above. 

MSCI members should tell the committee members that failure to enact the Senate’s currency language would put the United States at a competitive disadvantage and erode the benefits of passing the Trade Promotion Authority bill Congress passed earlier this summer. 

The Senate’s version of the customs bill also includes the Enforcing Orders and Reducing Customs Evasion (ENFORCE) Act, which would address foreign efforts to evade trade-remedy orders. (To learn more about this provision, which MSCI also supports, we urge you to read this letter from our partners at the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Iron and Steel Institute.) The House Steel Caucus last week sent a letter to House Ways and Means Committee members supporting the ENFORCE Act. 

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) issued a press release after conferees were named. He said, “This bill provides the enforcement tools necessary to ensure American workers and businesses can compete on a level playing field … I’m confident that our conferees will reach a bipartisan agreement that becomes law.” Lawmakers are hopeful the conference committee could conclude its work before Congress recesses for the December holidays, a goal that could mean that the House and Senate will vote on this bill before the end of 2015.