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White House Says President Will Sign Customs Bill, Touts Enforcement Provisions

Monday, February 15, 2016
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The White House said Feb. 11 that President Obama intends to sign into law the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, a broad customs reauthorization bill that has now been approved by both the House and Senate. The administration is touting the measure as providing strong new tools to ensure that trade rules are enforced.

Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg will host a webinar March 1 to review what Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has called “the largest legislative reform in customs and enforcement policy in nearly 20 years.” Click here for more information or to register to attend.

The White House pointed out that there are provisions in the bill that it does not support, including one that “contravenes longstanding U.S. policy toward Israel and the occupied territories, including with regard to Israeli settlement activity.” Others lamented that the final bill weakened previously approved provisions on issues such as currency manipulation, climate change and human trafficking.

Nevertheless, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative praised the bill’s enforcement provisions, which a USTR fact sheet said will better enable the U.S. to enforce the “groundbreaking intellectual property, labor, environment and many other fully enforceable commitments” the U.S. secured in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. These include codifying the Interagency Center on Trade Implementation, Monitoring and Enforcement at USTR, creating a trust fund to provide up to $15 million a year in new resources for trade enforcement efforts, strengthening intellectual property rights protections by authorizing the seizure of circumvention devices and facilitating the seizure of suspect merchandise, mandating a strategic multi-year plan for trade enforcement, and requiring a report on the effectiveness of trade enforcement activities such as fraud prevention and transshipment.

Critics of TPP, which the Obama administration is hoping to push through Congress by the end of this year, have complained that previous free trade agreements have harmed U.S. companies and workers due to lack of sufficient enforcement. Supporters have sought to counter that argument by highlighting the success of those enforcement actions that have been taken as well as the stronger enforcement tools and resources included in measures like TPP and the TFTEA.

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