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New Legislation: Imports, Cuba, Haiti, Israel, Trade Infrastructure, GMO Labeling

Monday, February 16, 2015
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

De Minimis Exemption for Imports. The Low Value Shipment Regulatory Modernization Act (S. 489, introduced Feb. 12 by Sens. Thune, R-S.D., and Wyden, D-Ore.) would increase from $200 to $800 the maximum value of goods that may be imported duty-free by one person on one day. A joint press release notes that this de minimis exemption amount has not been updated since 1993. The bill would also encourage U.S. trade negotiators to work to ensure that other nations similarly increase their de minimis levels for U.S. exports.

Cuba. The Freedom to Export to Cuba Act (S. 491, introduced Feb. 12 by Sen. Klobuchar, D-Minn.) would repeal the current legal restrictions against doing business with Cuba, including the original 1961 authorization for establishing the trade embargo, subsequent laws that required enforcement of the embargo, and other restrictive statutes that prohibit transactions between U.S.-owned or controlled firms and Cuba, as well as limitations on direct shipping between U.S. and Cuban ports. It would not repeal human rights provisions or provisions relating to property claims against the Cuban government.

Haiti. S. 503 (introduced Feb. 12 by Sen. Nelson, D-Fla.) would amend the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act to extend trade preferences for certain articles imported from Haiti.

Ports of Entry. The Emergency Port of Entry Personnel and Infrastructure Funding Act (S. 458, introduced Feb. 11 by Sen. Cornyn, R-Texas, and H.R. 883, introduced Feb. 11 by Rep. O’Rourke, D-Texas) aims to help U.S. border ports of entry deal with current funding shortages and increase staff and resources for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in the following ways.

- authorizes the secretary of homeland security to make improvements at current land ports of entry and construct new ports on the northern and southern borders

- directs CBP to hire, train and assign 5,000 additional officers and 350 support personnel at land border crossings over six years

- authorizes $6 billion over six years to carry out staffing increases and infrastructure improvements

- requires the General Services Administration to evaluate and respond to alternative financing proposals for land border infrastructure improvements from interested public and private entities

- directs CBP to standardize wait time data collection and assess data collection automation

- requires CBP to develop and adopt a standardized staff allocation model across land ports of entry

- adds new outcome-based performance measures that support trade facilitation goals to current performance measure criteria

In addition, S. 461 (introduced Feb. 11 by Sen. Cornyn) and H.R. 875 (introduced Feb. 11 by Rep. Cuellar, D-Texas) would provide for alternative financing arrangements for the provision of certain services and the construction and maintenance of infrastructure at land border ports of entry.

Freight Transportation. The National Freight Network Trust Fund Act (H.R. 935, introduced Feb. 12 by Reps. Hahn, D-Calif., and Poe, R-Texas) would deposit five percent of all import duties collected by CBP at U.S. ports of entry into a trust fund that would be used solely to fund freight transportation improvements. Projects that are part of the National Freight Network or part of a regional or state transportation plan, roads and rail lines that connect the network to a port, on-dock rail, and high freight volume roadway or rail corridors are among those that could be funded under this bill.

CBP/ICE. Rep. Miller, R-Mich., introduced Feb. 11 legislation to establish U.S. Customs and Border Protection (H.R. 878) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (H.R. 877). H.R. 878 would also provide for the authorization of border, maritime and transportation security responsibilities and functions in the Department of Homeland Security.

Israel. The U.S.-Israel Trade and Commercial Enhancement Act (H.R. 825, introduced Feb. 10 by Reps. Roskam, R-Ill., and Vargas, D-Calif.) aims to counter the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel in the following ways.

- instructs the U.S. trade representative to utilize free trade negotiations to discourage potential trade partners from participating in or promoting politically motivated acts of BDS against Israel and to seek the elimination of boycotts and barriers to trade where they exist

- establishes U.S. policy to oppose politically-motivated actions by states or international institutions that penalize or otherwise limit commercial relations specifically with Israel such as boycotts, divestment or sanctions

- requires foreign companies traded on U.S. stock exchanges to disclose whether they have participated in, or have faced pressure to participate in, acts of economic discrimination against Israel

GMO Food Labeling. The Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act (S. 511, introduced Feb. 12 by Sen. Boxer, D-Calif., and H.R. 913, introduced Feb. 12 by Rep DeFazio, D-Ore.) would require clear labels for genetically engineered foods intended for human consumption, including whole foods, processed foods, seafood and animal-based foods. Any product that has been genetically engineered would also not be allowed to identify itself with a “natural” label. A press release from Boxer’s office states by directing the Food and Drug Administration to implement a federal standard this legislation would “resolve concerns about the emerging patchwork of state labeling standards.”

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