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Legislative Update: TPA, Customs, Food Safety, Textiles

Monday, November 04, 2013
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

Both Congress and the White House remain focused on the federal budget and other issues, leaving little room for trade-related legislation through the end of the year. Efforts to advance trade promotion authority and customs reauthorization legislation are still ongoing, however, and lawmakers continue to introduce a variety of bills that could affect trade.

Trade Promotion Authority. President Obama has said that TPA (also known as “fast track”) is needed to implement the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreements currently under negotiation. U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman has reportedly been actively working to persuade lawmakers of the importance of TPA, and this past week a bipartisan group of House members formed a coalition in support of TPP that will push for Congress to act soon on TPA.

On the other hand, some lawmakers are seeking to generate opposition to TPA in the belief that Congress should not cede its constitutional authority to regulate commerce. In addition, efforts within the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees to draft a TPA bill appear to still be struggling.

Customs Reauthorization. Dozens of companies and business groups urged Senate Finance Committee leaders Oct. 24 to mark up and approve before the end of this year the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2013 (S. 662). The letter said this bill “would facilitate trade, improve enforcement of customs and trade laws, advance cooperation among government agencies, enhance enforcement of U.S. intellectual property laws, and set the global standard for border management.” With the World Trade Organization focused on completing a global trade facilitation agreement and both the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations focused on raising the global standards for supply chains, customs and trade facilitation, the signatories said, “the timing for this legislation is critical, and it would stand as an excellent benchmark.” They noted that a controversial provision regarding antidumping and countervailing duty enforcement has delayed congressional consideration of the bill and asked lawmakers to either “find a balanced solution that would reduce risk and provide certainty for businesses” or remove the provision so the bill can move forward.

Food Safety. A article reports that the farm bill approved by the House includes a provision that “could put proposed food safety regulations on indefinite hold” until the Food and Drug Administration conducts “additional scientific and economic analysis of any of the agency proposals that might also affect farmers.” This provision could delay further action on rules to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act, including a proposal to establish a foreign supplier verification program. At the same time, a U.S. district court has given the FDA until June 30, 2015, to issue all of the final rules necessary to implement the regulatory changes required by FSMA.

Textiles. Sens. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have reintroduced the Textile Enforcement and Security Act. According to a press release from Hagan’s office, this bill would (a) establish an electronic verification program that tracks yarn and fabric inputs in free trade agreements, (b) increase the number of import specialists trained in textile and apparel verifications at the 15 largest U.S. ports (by value) that process textile and apparel imports, (c) increase staff at the Textile and Trade Agreements Division within U.S. Customs and Border Protection headquarters that are dedicated and trained in identifying textiles fraud, and (d) mandate the publishing of names of companies that intentionally violate the rules of textile and apparel trade agreements.

Port and Waterway Infrastructure. The House and Senate passed in October differing versions of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act. Activities authorized under this legislation are designed to maintain the U.S. internal waterway system, which is used to transport a large share of agricultural exports, and to prepare U.S. port infrastructure for the larger cargo ships that will be able to transit the expanded Panama  Canal starting in 2015 as well as trade volumes that are expected to double within a decade and then double again by 2030. Click here for a summary of the House-passed bill.

Other. Following is a list of additional trade-related legislation that has been introduced recently. The texts of these bills are or will shortly be available on the Library of Congress Web site.

H.R. 3182 – to provide grants to construct transportation and supporting infrastructure improvements at existing and new international border crossings (introduced Sept. 25 by Rep. Peters, referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure)

H.R. 3303 – to provide regulatory clarity regarding mobile medical applications, clinical decision support, electronic health records and other health care-related software (introduced Oct. 22 by Rep. Blackburn, referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce)

H.R. 3331 – to ensure that persons who form corporations or limited liability companies in the United States disclose their beneficial owners in order to prevent wrongdoers from exploiting U.S. corporations and LLCs for criminal gain, and to assist law enforcement in detecting, preventing and punishing terrorism, money laundering and other misconduct involving U.S. corporations and LLCs  (introduced Oct. 23 by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, referred to House Committee on Financial Services)

H.R. 3355 – to increase the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing by, among other things, reauthorizing TPA for five years and urging further reform of export control laws (introduced Oct. 28 by Rep. Guthrie, referred to the House committees on Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, Armed Services, Education and the Workforce, Natural Resources, House Administration, the Judiciary, Rules, Appropriations, Science, Space and Technology, and Foreign Affairs)

S. 1612 – to deter abusive patent litigation by targeting the economic incentives that fuel frivolous lawsuits (introduced Oct. 30 b Sen. Hatch, referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary)

S. 1615 – to develop and recruit new, high-value jobs to the U.S. and to encourage the repatriation of jobs that have been off-shored to other countries by, among other things, providing for expedited federal financing to allow select manufacturing companies to increase export capacity (introduced Oct. 30 by Sen. Warner, referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation)

S. 1633 – to suspend temporarily the duty on certain footwear (introduced Oct. 31 by Sen. Cantwell, referred to the Senate Committee on Finance)

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