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New Legislation on Export Controls, Trade Negotiations, Product Safety, Border Taxes, Etc.

Thursday, October 06, 2016
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The following trade-related bills have recently been introduced in the U.S. Congress.

Trade Negotiations. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., who introduced the Promoting Transparency in Trade Act (H.R. 6141) Sept. 22, said this bill would require the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to publish text after each round of trade deal negotiations on a public website “so the American people can see for themselves whether these agreements are good for them and their families, and so Congress can carry out our constitutional responsibility to ensure trade deals promote economic growth and keep jobs in this country.” The bill would also require that USTR appoint a transparency officer who does not have, or appear to have, any conflict of interest in ensuring the transparency of USTR activities.

Border Taxes. The Border Tax Equity Act (H.R. 6183, introduced Sept. 27 by Rep. Pascrell, D-N.J.) would mitigate the negative impact of border tax adjustments on U.S. exporters by instructing USTR to negotiate at the World Trade Organization an agreement that eliminates the VAT inequity (WTO rules allow foreign nations with value-added taxes to rebate those taxes to producers when they export, whereas U.S. exporters get hit with both U.S. taxes and the foreign VAT), impose a fee on imports from countries that employ indirect taxes and grant rebates upon export if a WTO agreement cannot be reached by 2018, and make U.S. exporters eligible to receive payments to neutralize the discriminatory effect of border taxes.

Export Controls. The Export Control Reform Act (S. 3405, introduced Sept. 27 by Sen. Daines, R-Mont.; and H.R. 6176, introduced Sept. 27 by Rep. Scalise, R-La.) would transfer regulatory responsibility for common domestic firearms and related items from the U.S. Munitions List to the Commerce Control List. Daines said this bill responds to a recent change expanding the definition of a manufacturer under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations to cover gunsmiths who modify rifles, which would require them to register and pay an annual $2,250 fee.

Freight Transportation. Bill sponsor Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said the Surface Transportation and Maritime Security Act (S. 3379, introduced Sept. 21) would address deficiencies in the Transportation Security Administration’s efforts to protect rail, transit, highway, and maritime passenger and freight transportation. Among other things, this bill would require the TSA to improve the screening of maritime workers and would mandate a comprehensive third-party assessment of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential program, along with a corrective action plan to address deficiencies.

The Freight Infrastructure Reinvestment Act (H.R. 6193, introduced Sept. 27 by Rep. Smith, D-Wash.) would establish the National Freight Mobility Infrastructure Fund through a one percent fee on the shipment of freight cargo. Funds would support regionally significant freight projects such as expanding rail and highway tunnels, reinforcing roads and bridges for heavier traffic and vehicle volume, and constructing marine terminal facilities.

Drug Imports. S. 3292 (introduced Sept. 7 by Sen. Portman, R-Ohio) would make the postmaster general the importer of record for non-letter class mail and require the provision of advance electronic information about shipments of non-letter class mail to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Portman said foreign companies are taking advantage of weaknesses in international mail security standards to break U.S. customs laws and regulations by shipping illegal drugs directly through the U.S. postal system and that access to advance information on mail shipments would enable CBP to better target potentially illegal packages.

Export Promotion. The Export Promotion Act (H.R. 6106, introduced Sept. 21 by Rep. Kuster, D-N.H.) would establish a single export promotion agency in the executive branch. Kuster said this bill would consolidate many of the export assistance programs “strewn across more than a dozen different departments and federal agencies” to improve access to resources for small business that are seeking to grow their exports or begin exporting.

Product Safety. The Equestrian Helmet Labeling Act (H.R. 6145, introduced Sept. 22 by Rep. Himes, D-Conn.) would require a clear and obvious warning label on equestrian headgear, including packaging and advertising materials, if it does not meet ASTM safety standards.

Food Safety. The Ban Poisonous Additives Act (S. 3412, introduced Sept. 28 by Sen. Markey, D-Mass., and H.R. 6269, introduced Sept. 28 by Rep. Meng, D-N.Y.) would ban the use of bisphenol A in food and beverage containers and the replacement of BPA in such containers with unsafe alternatives.

Trade Policy. S. 3413 (introduced Sept. 28 by Sen. Hatch, R-Utah) would authorize the extension of nondiscriminatory treatment (normal trade relations treatment) to the products of Kazakhstan.

Boycotts. S. 3465 (introduced Sept. 29 by Sen. Cardin, D-Md.) would include boycotts fostered by international governmental organizations against Israel in the prohibition on boycotts against U.S. allies and direct the U.S. Export-Import Bank to oppose boycotts against Israel.

Manufacturing. The Chief Manufacturing Officer Act (H.R. 6160, introduced Sept. 22 by Rep. Ryan, D-Ohio) would establish the U.S. chief manufacturing officer in the executive office of the president with the responsibility of developing a national manufacturing strategy to revitalize the manufacturing sector, spur economic growth, and expand U.S. competitiveness. Ryan said that some legislative policies and executive actions have resulted in unintended, inconsistent, and conflicting outcomes with respect to the growth of manufacturing in the U.S. and that high-level coordination and planning is needed to ensure that all actions and strategies would lead to a clear path for growth of the manufacturing sector.

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