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January 25, 2016

Call Your Senators And Tell Them To Support Historic Customs Reform Legislation

As Connecting the Dots reported in December, after months of negotiation the U.S. House and Senate finally reached a deal on a customs reauthorization bill. While the House passed the bill in December – and the Senate was expected to follow suit soon after – the legislation is still pending in the upper chamber. 

According to Politico’s “Morning Trade,” members of the Senate Finance Committee staff say the bill is in “good shape” and has the votes to pass, but several senators continue to oppose the legislation because, in addition to the trade provisions, it includes language placing a permanent ban on placing taxes on Internet access. (According to Politico, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) is leading the effort to kill the legislation.) 

As such, MSCI members are urged to call their senators to tell them to support this bill and to urge Senate leaders to bring it forward for a vote. 

The bill, H.R. 644, the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, includes provisions from the Enforcing Orders and Reducing Customs Evasion (ENFORCE) Act, which MSCI supports, and language that requires the “Secretary of the Treasury to submit to Congress a report on the macroeconomic and currency exchange rate policies of each country that is a major trading partner of the United States and to take specific steps if it finds that a currency is undervalued.” 

The legislation also directs the Treasury Secretary to “conduct enhanced bilateral engagement with each country for which an enhanced analysis of macroeconomic and currency exchange rate policies is included in the report submitted by the Secretary to Congress” and allows the secretary to refrain from enhancing a bilateral trade agreement if he or she “determines that commencing enhanced bilateral engagement would have an adverse impact on the U.S. economy greater than the benefits of such engagement or would cause serious harm to the national security of the United States.” 

Finally, the bill “authorizes the President to take certain remedial actions regarding a country that fails to adopt appropriate policies to correct the identified undervaluation and surpluses, including: 1) restrictions on U.S. government financing; 2) restrictions on U.S. government procurement; 3) additional efforts at the International Monetary Fund; or (4) by taking into account such currency policies before initiating or entering into any bilateral or regional trade agreement negotiations.” 

The bill also includes other historic reforms. Specifically, it:

  • Ensures that CBP focuses on its trade-related mission;
  • Modernizes CBP’s automated systems and attempts to reduce paperwork burdens;
  • Gives CBP new tools, including a new investigation process with strict deadlines and judicial review, to act against evasion of antidumping and countervailing duties;
  • Says trade agreements should not include immigration- or greenhouse gas-related provisions;
  • Allows for greater oversight of executive branch trade nominees and oversight of trade deal negotiations;
  • Helps fight human trafficking; and
  • Permanently bans states and localities from taxing Internet access or Internet commerce.

A full summary of the bill and the bill’s language can be found here