Customs Reauthorization, Trade in Services Agreement on Congressional Agenda
Improving trade facilitation and enforcement efforts and liberalizing international trade in services will be topics of discussion among lawmakers in Washington this week. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., will convene a hearing to evaluate a customs reauthorization bill he and committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, introduced on March 22, while House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Chairman Devin Nunes will conduct the first of several closed-door trade roundtables to discuss trade in services.
Customs Reauthorization. The Senate Finance hearing will take place May 22 and is intended to highlight the benefits of the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2013 (S. 662). A committee fact sheet indicates that this bill includes the following provisions.
- establishes and fully authorizes U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement and makes trade facilitation and trade enforcement a top priority of each agency
- creates a new deputy commissioner for trade with primary responsibility for CBP’s trade mission and a trade advocate to work with the private sector
- requires CBP and ICE to prepare a biennial joint strategic plan outlining proposals to improve trade enforcement and requires CBP to develop risk assessment methodologies to better target cargo that may violate U.S. customs and trade laws while facilitating legitimate trade
- includes the ENFORCE Act, as passed by Senate Finance in July 2012, to provide CBP and the private sector with tools to combat the evasion of antidumping and countervailing duties
- requires the designation of commercial enforcement officers to ensure effective trade enforcement at U.S. ports
- establishes the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center to coordinate federal efforts to prevent intellectual property rights violations, requires CBP to share information about suspected infringing merchandise with rights holders, establishes a process for enforcing copyrights while registration with the Copyright Office is pending, and mandates the publication of information concerning the seizure of unlawful circumvention devices
- establishes an interagency Import Safety Working Group
- requires CBP to identify commercially significant and measureable trade benefits for participants in all CBP partnership programs and to provide enhanced trade benefits to qualified partners
- raises the de minimis level from $200 to $800
- requires CBP to complete the development of the Automated Commercial Environment in three years
- streamlines CBP’s duty drawback process by requiring electronic filing of claims and establishing objective eligibility requirements
- establishes a committee to improve interagency coordination regarding CBP trade policies and procedures that impact other agencies and to alert CBP of other policies that impact its ability to achieve its trade missions
Customs reauthorization is also expected to be considered this year by the House. In late December House Republicans and Democrats each released their own versions of a customs reauthorization bill, but neither measure has yet been reintroduced in this Congress and no hearings on the issue have yet been held.
Trade in Services. The first of Chairman Nunes’ trade roundtables will also be held May 22 and will concentrate on international trade in services. Participation in this event is by invitation only and will be limited to five stakeholders. However, interested parties can submit comments, which will be compiled for the benefit of Republican members participating in the roundtable series.
One of the topics likely to come up during this roundtable is the International Services Agreement, an effort by the United States and 20 other trading partners to achieve an ambitious plurilateral deal that eliminates or reduces barriers to services traded either on a cross-border basis or through a foreign commercial presence. Administration officials have said that U.S. objectives for the agreement include ensuring that U.S. service suppliers can compete on the basis of quality and competence rather than nationality, securing greater regulatory transparency and predictability from U.S. trading partners, and addressing new issues arising in the global marketplace. Click here for a recent article by ST&R attorneys on the opportunities presented by the ISA.
Nunes has said he strongly supports “an ambitious ISA” with “strong commitments across the full spectrum of services.” He pointed out that about 80% of U.S. jobs are in the services sector and that an efficient global market for services is critical to allowing U.S. agricultural and manufacturing exporters to design, develop, market, finance, insure, transport, install, repair, and provide administrative and computing support for U.S. exports.
Nunes plans to hold additional roundtables in the coming months on the following topics: agricultural trade; manufacturing, subsidies and competition; biotech, pharmaceuticals and life sciences; high tech and export controls; intellectual property; finance and foreign investment; energy; and other trade issues.