New Legislation: Textiles, Oil and Gas, IPR, Product Labeling, Exports, Etc.
The following trade-related bills were recently introduced in the U.S. Congress.
Textiles and Apparel. The Nepal Trade Preferences Act (S. 81) would allow the duty-free importation of textile and apparel products from Nepal. Specifically, this bill would: authorize such treatment if Nepal meets the eligibility requirements outlined in the African Growth and Opportunity Act; stipulate that the covered products could be import-sensitive and that 35 percent of their value must be derived from Nepal; define the eligible products as textiles and apparel assembled in Nepal as well as hand loomed, handmade, folklore articles and ethnic printed fabrics; limit the total volume of duty-free imports to 1.5 percent of total U.S. textile and apparel imports; and authorize duty-free treatment to be extended on an annual basis for up to ten years.
Oil and Gas Exports. The Domestic Prosperity and Global Freedom Act (H.R. 89) calls for pending liquefied natural gas export applications to be granted immediately upon the bill’s enactment and would remove the additional scrutiny currently required for applications to export LNG to World Trade Organization member countries.
The Crude Oil Export Act (H.R. 156) would lift the prohibition on exports of U.S. crude oil, maintain a ban on such exports to any country that is subject to U.S. trade restrictions or sanctions, and allow the president to impose a ban on crude oil exports for up to 90 days during a period of national emergency.
IPR. The Foreign Counterfeit Prevention Act (H.R. 236) would allow U.S. Customs and Border Protection to exchange certain information with intellectual property rights holders. A press release from bill sponsor Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, states that while in the past CBP “routinely sought the assistance of trademark and copyright owners to authenticate suspected counterfeit or pirated products detained at the border … a questionable legal interpretation of the Trade Secrets Act” prompted CBP to direct its field staff in 2008 to “redact all identifying markings and codes before sending a digital image to the right holder to authenticate the product.” Poe said H.R. 236 “provides a permanent remedy to this serious enforcement deficiency by clarifying that it is not a violation of the Trade Secrets Act for CBP officers to provide information and samples, including bar codes and identifying marks, to the right holder.” He added that this information sharing would also ensure that “genuine goods held for examination by CBP will be promptly identified so that authentic shipments will not be delayed from reaching the American consumer markets.”
Product Labeling. The ENERGY STAR Regulatory Improvement Act (H.R. 175) would provide for the revision of certification requirements for the labeling of consumer, home and office electronic products for program partners that have complied with all requirements of the Energy Star program for at least 18 months. The revised requirements would not require third-party certification for a product to be listed but could require test data and other product information to be submitted to facilitate product listing and performance verification for a sample of products.
Export Promotion. The Small Business Export Growth Act (S. 25) aims to help small businesses capitalize on export opportunities by removing red tape and improving the coordination of federal export assistance programs. Among other things, this bill would: create a Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee working group to streamline efforts among state and federal export promotion and assistance agencies, direct the TPCC to identify opportunities to consolidate unnecessary government offices, require the Small Business Administration to conduct greater outreach to small businesses about the opportunities in exporting and federal resources available for small businesses, direct the Department of Commerce to prepare an annual report on the TPCC’s ability to carry out its duties, and require the TPCC to incorporate recommendations from the Government Accountability Office, including those pertaining to eliminating duplication and overlap.
CBP Pre-Clearance. The Putting Security First in Preclearance Act (H.R. 82) would establish conditions under which the Department of Homeland Security may commence U.S. Customs and Border Protection security screening operations at a preclearance facility outside the U.S. These conditions include submitting to Congress at least 90 days in advance a comprehensive assessment that includes a homeland security threat assessment for the country at issue, information on the anticipated homeland security benefits and potential vulnerabilities associated with preclearance operations, a CBP staffing model, and information on anticipated costs and funding (the latter of which could not come from a foreign government or person).
Freight Infrastructure. H.R. 198 would establish national policies and programs to strengthen freight-related infrastructure (no further information is yet available).
Drug Imports. The Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act (S. 122) would allow individuals to import a personal supply of prescription drugs that are purchased from an approved Canadian pharmacy and dispensed by a licensed pharmacist.
S. 131 would amend the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to ensure that valid generic drugs may enter the U.S. market (no further information is yet available).
Safety Standards. H.R. 225 would amend the Consumer Product Safety Act to remove the exclusion of pistols, revolvers and other firearms from the definition of consumer product in order to permit the issuance of safety standards for such articles by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.