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Customs Bill Could Get Senate Vote This Month

Friday, January 15, 2016
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

A customs reauthorization bill focused on improving trade facilitation and enforcement could get a vote in the Senate this month after being stuck there for several weeks following its approval by the House of Representatives.

The lengthy bill includes dozens of provisions of interest to the trade community, including drawback reform, a four-fold increase in the de minimis amount of imports that can enter duty-free, new responsibilities for U.S. Customs and Border Protection to combat the evasion of antidumping and countervailing duties, enhanced targeting of high-risk shipments, tariff adjustments for certain outerwear and footwear, and trade preferences for some imports from Nepal.

One of the obstacles to Senate passage has been the addition by a House-Senate conference committee of a provision permanently banning states and local governments from imposing taxes on Internet access. Supporters of the bill anticipate several possible steps to remove this provision but say that regardless of the outcome they expect a vote on the conference report in the Senate (and the House, again, if need be), possibly by the end of January. Opponents, on the other hand, say that such a result is not a foregone conclusion and that the legislation could ultimately fail due to other objectionable provisions that have been seen to weaken protections against currency manipulation, climate change and human trafficking.

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