New Legislation: Cosmetics, Customs, Forced Labor, Plant Products, Textiles, FTAs
Buy America. The Invest in American Jobs Act (S. 1043, introduced April 22 by Sen. Merkley, D-Ore.) would ensure that transportation and infrastructure projects carried out using federal financial assistance are constructed with steel, iron and manufactured goods produced in the United States whenever possible. Merkley said similar “Buy America” standards currently exist for key aspects of highway and water infrastructure but this bill would expand those provisions to cover all major projects overseen by the Department of Transportation.
Cosmetics. The Personal Care Products Safety Act (S. 1014, introduced April 20 by Sen. Feinstein) would strengthen the Food and Drug Administration’s authority to regulate the ingredients in personal care products. A press release from Feinstein’s office states that this bill would provide streamlined federal standards so that the personal care products industry knows what to expect and companies can plan for the future with certainty.
This bill would require the FDA to evaluate a minimum of five ingredients per year to determine their safety and appropriate use, beginning with diazolidinyl urea (used as a preservative in products such as deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, bubble bath and lotion), lead acetate (used as a color additive in hair dyes), methylene glycol/formaldehyde (used in hair treatments), propyl paraben (used as a preservative in products including shampoo, conditioner and lotion), and quaternium-15 (used as a preservative in products including shampoo, shaving cream, skin creams and cleansers).
Under this bill the FDA would have authority to (a) order recalls of certain personal care products that threaten consumer safety and (b) require labeling of products that include ingredients not appropriate for children and those that should be professionally administered. Complete label information, including ingredients and product warnings, would have to be posted online since approximately 40 percent of personal care products are purchased over the Internet.
Further, the bill would require companies to provide contact information on their products for consumers, report serious adverse events to the FDA within 15 days, register annually with the FDA and provide the agency with information on the ingredients used in their personal care products.
Cuba. The Agricultural Export Expansion Act (S. 1049, introduced April 22 by Sen. Heitkamp, D-N.D.) would lift the ban on U.S. private banks and companies offering credit for agricultural exports to Cuba, thus eliminating the requirement for cash payments up front for such exports.
Customs. The Customs Training Enhancement Act (H.R. 2015, introduced April 23 by Rep. Lipinski, D-Ind.) would require U.S. Customs and Border Protection to establish and carry out at least 15 educational seminars at U.S. ports of entry each year to improve the ability of CBP personnel to classify and appraise imported articles in accordance with U.S. customs laws, including their ability to identify and prevent mislabeling and transshipment. These seminars would cover topics such as conducting physical inspections to determine if the article is mislabeled and reviewing manifests and accompanying documentation to verify country of origin and the industry supply chain.
Environment. The Green 301 Act (H.R. 1946, introduced April 22 by Rep. Blumenauer, D-Ore.) would expand the Section 301 process to address the unfair enforcement of environmental laws by U.S. trading partners by authorizing the imposition of penalties on countries that (a) fail to effectively enforce their environmental laws, (b) waive or otherwise derogate from their environmental laws or weaken the protections afforded by such laws, (c) fail to provide for judicial or administrative proceedings giving access to remedies for violations of their environmental laws, (d) fail to provide appropriate and effective sanctions or remedies for violations of their environmental laws, or (e) fail to effectively implement environmental commitments in agreements binding on them and the United States.
The Supplemental Trade Review, Oversight, Noncompliance and General Enforcement Resources Act (H.R. 1947, introduced April 22 by Rep. Blumenauer) would create an enforcement trust fund composed of up to $30 million of the antidumping and countervailing duties collected each year “to more effectively enforce and implement our trade agreements,” with a focus on environmental and labor commitments. U.S. agencies would be authorized to use these trust fund resources to enforce obligations under free trade agreements; implement and enforce obligations by WTO member countries in those agreements to which the U.S. is a party; build capacity for the effective implementation of FTA partner commitments, with priority to environmental and labor obligations; monitor and evaluate U.S. capacity building efforts to ensure these investments are spent wisely; and clarify that none of the trust fund resources could be used for negotiating new trade agreements.
The Targeted Use of Sanctions for Killing Elephants and Rhinoceros Act (H.R. 194, introduced April 22 by Rep. DeFazio, D-Ore.) would impose trade sanctions on countries that facilitate ivory and rhino horn trafficking. “The illegal wildlife trade funds the operations of gun, drug and human trafficking crime syndicates” as well as “extremely dangerous terrorist groups that threaten regional stability in Africa and national security in the United States,” DeFazio said. “We need to choke off access to the market, especially in countries with the largest number of consumers such as China and Vietnam. My legislation sends a strong message—if countries permit this illegal trafficking, there will be economic consequences.”
Forced Labor. H.R. 1903 (introduced April 21 by Rep. Kind, D-Wis.) would amend the Tariff Act of 1930 to eliminate the consumptive demand exception to the prohibition on the importation of goods made with convict labor, forced labor or indentured labor. The bill would require CBP to submit annual reports on the number of instances in which merchandise was denied entry under this prohibition, a description of such merchandise and such other information as CBP considers appropriate with respect to monitoring and enforcing compliance.
Grain Exports. The United States Grain Standards Act Reauthorization Act (H.R. 2088, introduced April 29 by Rep. Conaway, R-Texas) would improve inspection services performed at export elevators at export port locations.
Hazmat Transportation. The Toxics by Rail Accountability and Community Knowledge Act (S. 1114, introduced April 28 by Sen. Menendez, D-N.J., and H.R. 2074, introduced April 28 by Rep. Norcross, D-N.J.) aims to improve the safety of hazardous materials transportation by rail by (a) creating strong penalties for railroads that violate safety standards, (b) requiring up-to-date, accurate and standardized hazmat information, (c) establishing new safety procedures and qualifications to improve moveable bridge crossing safety, (d) improving risk assessment and decision-making tools for railroads, and (e) enhancing public education along rail routes that carry hazardous materials.
Plant Products. The Freedom from Over-Criminalization and Unjust Seizures Act (S. 1019, introduced April 21 by Sen. Paul, R-Ky.), would respond to the Lacey Act’s “extensive and unspecific delegation of congressional power to foreign governments” by replacing the “harsh and unfair criminal penalties reliant on foreign law for trafficking in wildlife, fish and plants with a reasonable and sensible civil penalty system that reestablishes Congress’s authority to regulate these matters.”
Textiles. H.R. 1894 (introduced April 20 by Rep. Carney, D-Del.) would extend the tariff preference level for certain textile goods imported from Morocco for ten years, through Dec. 31, 2025, and set this TPL at 10 million square meters equivalent each year.
Trade Agreements. The Truth, Transparency, Accountability, and Fairness in Trade Act (H.R. 1917, introduced April 21 by Rep. Lipinski, D-Ill.) would require the Executive Branch to review and report on the operation of existing trade agreements to determine whether U.S. jobs and exports are being negatively impacted. If a negative impact is found, any member of Congress would have the right to submit a termination bill, which would have expedited consideration and allow for the cancellation of some or all of the trade agreement causing damage. After passage of a termination bill, any renegotiated agreement would be barred from being considered under trade promotion authority. Further, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative would be required to negotiate severable trade agreements moving forward so as to allow for the cancellation of specific provisions without necessarily cancelling entire agreements.
Watches and Jewelry. H.R. 2118 (introduced April 29 by Rep. Plaskett, D-USVI) would extend to 2027 the Production Incentive Certificate program that allows refunds of duties on watches and jewelry produced in U.S. insular possessions, which is currently set to expire at the end of 2015.