February 8, 2016

U.S. Senate May Vote On Customs Bill This Week – Call Your Senators To Tell Them To Support It

This week, the U.S. Senate may vote on H.R. 644, the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 and MSCI asks it members to call their senators to urge them to support this important piece of legislation. (The U.S. House passed the bill last December on a on a 256-158 vote

After nearly a decade with no authorization, customs operations are in strong need of updating and full automation to make sure that manufacturers are not undermined as they compete in the global economy and this bill includes provisions to eliminate red tape, unneeded border delays and outdated processes. 

Additionally, H.R. 644 addresses currency manipulation by:

  • Requiring 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.”
  • Directing 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.”
  • Allowing 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.”
  • Authorizing 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.”

H.R. 644 also:

  • Ensures that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) focuses on its trade-related mission;
  • Modernizes CBP’s automated systems and attempts to reduce paperwork burdens;
  • 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.

The bill includes the Enforcing Orders and Reducing Customs Evasion (ENFORCE) Act, which will provide manufacturers in the United States found injured by unfair trade an effective new enforcement tool to address the growing evasion of U.S. trade rules. These provisions provide strong, transparent and time-limited procedures, subject to judicial review, to ensure that evasion does not undermine U.S. trade laws. 

It also includes new international intellectual property and trade enforcement tools. With intellectual property theft growing overseas and ongoing challenges in enforcement of our trading partners’ commitments, these new tools will are critical to provide manufacturers a more level playing field and advance U.S. competitiveness. Finally, the bill includes a reauthorization of the State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) program for small businesses that will help them better meet the challenges of exporting to new markets overseas. 

A full summary of the bipartisan bill can be found here