Legislative Update: Tariffs, Ports of Entry, Arms Exports, Trade Preferences
Tariffs. The Trade Security Act (H.R. 1008 and S. 365, both introduced Feb. 6) would require the Department of Defense (rather than the Department of Commerce, as is the case currently) to justify the national security basis for any new import tariffs under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. If a threat is found and the president wants to respond, the DOC (in consultation with the DoD and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative) would develop recommendations and the president would decide whether or not to act on them. These bills would also expand the ability of Congress to disapprove of a Section 232 action by passing a joint resolution, which is currently limited to actions on oil imports.
These measures are seen as less strict than the Congressional Trade Authority Act, which would limit future Section 232 actions to specific types of goods and give Congress the final say on whether to impose tariffs or other restrictions.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce issued a statement supporting the Trade Security Act, noting that the use of Section 232 to increase tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum “has inflicted substantial harm on U.S. industry and consumers in every state” and “undermined U.S. efforts to build an international coalition of like-minded countries to combat the use of unfair trade practices.”
Ports of Entry. The Trade Facilitation and Security Enhancement Act (S. 414, introduced Feb. 7 by Sen. Heinrich, D-N.M.) would increase the daily commercial hours of operation at designated ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border. The bill would also direct U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the General Services Administration to conduct a study of designated POEs to identify improvements to redesign, modernize, and improve efficiency.
Arms Exports. The Prevent Crime and Terrorism Act (H.R. 1134, introduced Feb. 8 by Rep. Torres, D-Calif.) would prohibit the president from removing any items from the U.S. Munitions List. A press release from Torres’ office notes that this bill would block a pending proposal to transfer the regulation of exports of firearms under USML category I, II, or III from the State Department to the Commerce Department.
Trade Preferences. H.R. 991 (introduced Feb. 6 by Reps. Sewell, D-Ala., and Wenstrup, R-Ohio) would reauthorize the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act, which allows for the duty- and quota-free import of apparel products made with U.S. yarns, fabrics, and threads from Caribbean countries, until 2030. Eligible CBTPA countries include Barbados, Belize, Curacao, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Trade Policy Advisors. The following members of the Senate Finance Committee have been appointed as congressional advisers on trade policy and negotiations to international conferences, meetings, and negotiation sessions relating to trade agreements: Charles Grassley, R-Iowa; Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; Pat Roberts, R-Kansas; Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.