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Legislative Update: Look Ahead to 2012

Monday, December 26, 2011
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

Lawmakers left Washington last week for a month-long holiday recess having done little in recent weeks to advance trade or customs legislation. That could change in 2012, however, now that many of the more high-profile issues have been addressed.

Congress is likely to continue next year its search for ways to foster economic recovery, and there are several trade-related bills that could be enlisted in that effort. One is a bill to reform the way the U.S. taxes corporate income earned overseas, a discussion draft of which was circulated in late October. Another possibility is a measure to combat the evasion of antidumping and countervailing duties, although an actual bill has yet to be introduced and prospects could be dimming in light of recent figures from U.S. Customs and Border Protection showing that the amount of uncollected AD/CV duties (the majority of which are often attributed to evasion) has declined significantly for two straight years. A bill with a potentially brighter outlook is the Retailers and Entertainers Lacey Implementation and Enforcement Fairness (RELIEF) Act, which seeks to ameliorate some of the ill effects of the Lacey Act amendments of 2008 concerning imports of goods made with plants or plant products.

With respect to specific trade partners, China and Russia could figure prominently in the congressional trade agenda for 2012. The Senate approved Oct. 11 legislation to address the alleged undervaluation of China’s currency, although little has happened since to suggest that supporters would be able to advance the bill in the House, where Republican leaders have all but said they will not bring it up. However, the continuing trade deficit with China and the United States’ ongoing economic struggles mean that congressional action on some sort of China legislation cannot be ruled out. In the meantime lawmakers will be pushed to approve legislation repealing the Jackson-Vanik amendment with respect to Russia now that it has officially been invited to join the World Trade Organization. A repeal would allow the president to grant permanent normal trade relations status to goods imported from Russia and is necessary for U.S. companies to take advantage of all the concessions Russia will make as part of its WTO accession.

Other topics that could affect international traders and may be taken up in Congress next year include customs reauthorization , regulatory reform and online piracy.

Finally, below is a list of additional trade-related bills that have been introduced recently. The texts of these bills are or will be shortly available on the Library of Congress’ Web site.

• S. 2011 – to empower ports to regulate clean truck programs
• S. 2012 – to require that labels on children's sleepwear that indicate the sleepwear is flame resistant also include the chemical name of the flame retardant used
• S. 2007 – to amend the African Growth and Opportunity Act to extend the third-country fabric rule and add South Sudan to the list of countries eligible for designation
• S. 1995 – to enhance Food and Drug Administration oversight of medical device recalls and provide for the conditional clearance of certain medical devices
• S. 1980 – to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing through port state measures
• S. 1964 – to exempt from the harbor maintenance tax certain commercial cargo loaded or unloaded at United States ports in the Great Lakes Saint Lawrence Seaway System
• S. 1952 – to improve hazardous materials transportation safety
• S. 1946 – to require foreign manufacturers of products imported into the United States to establish registered agents in the United States who are authorized to accept service of process against such manufacturers
• H.R. 3607 – to establish a program to improve freight mobility in the United States and establish the National Freight Mobility Infrastructure Fund
• H.R. 3588 – to require the proposal for debarment from contracting with the federal government of persons violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977

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