Strengthening Enforcement Tops List of Goals as Customs Bill Conference Gets Underway
A House-Senate conference committee tasked with hammering out a customs reauthorization bill held an initial meeting Dec. 7 where conferees laid out their priorities for a final measure. Supporters are hoping to conclude the conference by the end of this week and see the legislation enacted into law by the end of the year.
Lawmakers from both parties were insistent that the bill include specific provisions to strengthen trade enforcement. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said he is “committed to making sure that the conference report contains strong new protections for U.S. intellectual property rights and new tools to identify and address currency manipulation.” Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., identified as “extraordinarily important” passage of the ENFORCE Act to crack down on antidumping and countervailing duty evasion, making the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center permanent, and creating a new annual trust fund for trade enforcement. Wyden also said the bill “absolutely must close an egregious loophole that allowed products made with slave and child labor to be imported to the U.S.” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said giving U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Commerce Department additional tools to “fight unfair trade and address the growing problem of evasion of our trade remedy laws” is one of his goals as well.
Other provisions are also being discussed but their inclusion is less certain. Hatch said he supports advancing U.S.-Israel ties, providing additional trade preferences for Nepal, and reforming the miscellaneous trade bill process or at least defining “a clear path forward.” Wyden acknowledged that the House is “only willing to go so far” to address foreign currency manipulation but said “I will do all I can in this conference to guarantee that our trade policies go further than ever” on this issue. He also wants the bill to “direct trade negotiators to act against illegal fishing and fish subsidies that are destroying our oceans and give Customs more training to stop stolen timber.” Brady said he supports measures on currency manipulation, the MTB and U.S.-Israel ties as well and also mentioned modernizing CBP’s automated systems.