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Legislative Update: Tariffs, Mail Shipments, Boycotts, Border Facilities

Friday, June 15, 2018
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

Tariffs. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will be the sole witness at a June 20 hearing before the Senate Finance Committee on the use of tariffs under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. President Trump has imposed such tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum products and is threatening to do the same with automobiles and auto parts. In announcing the hearing Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, again expressed his concern that the tariffs “are ultimately paid by American consumers and cause harm to American manufacturers, undermining the success of tax reform.”

According to press reports, the Senate will not vote on whether to add to the defense authorization bill a measure requiring congressional approval of any import tariffs imposed on national security grounds under Section 232. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who introduced the measure, criticized Republican leaders for not allowing a vote, which he said was due to fear of angering the president.

International Mail Shipments. The House and Senate have released a bipartisan agreement on the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention Act, which seeks to help prevent the importation of synthetic opioids through the international mail system. A fact sheet on this measure explains that U.S. Customs and Border Protection currently requires advance electronic data for shipments by private carriers (including express delivery carriers) into the U.S., which enables CBP to target high-risk shipments for inspection and seizure, but that this requirement does not apply to international mail shipments. In response, this bill would require the U.S. Postal Service to obtain and transmit to CBP advance electronic information on at least 70 percent of international mail arriving in the U.S. by Dec. 31, 2018, and 100 percent by Dec. 31, 2020. The USPS would have to refuse shipments for which AED is not furnished or face civil penalties.

Boycotts. The Export Administration Anti-Discrimination Act (H.R. 6095, introduced June 13 by Rep. DeSantis, R-Fla.) would update existing anti-boycott protections by (a) expanding the scope of prohibited conduct from boycotts imposed by foreign countries to all boycotts of a nation not subject to U.S. sanctions, regardless of the boycott’s origin, (b) creating a private right of action for those harmed by unlawful boycotts, and (c) permanently enacting the anti-boycott protections in the Export Administration Act that are presently only enforced by executive order.

Border Facilities. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., introduced June 12 legislation (S. 3056) that aims to establish a more uniform, transparent, and modern process to authorize the construction, connection, operation, and maintenance of international border-crossing facilities for the import and export of oil and natural gas and the transmission of electricity. A press release from Hoeven’s office said this bill would  eliminate the presidential permit requirement for cross-border projects and put the decision making into the hands of appropriate agencies. It would also impose a 90-day time limit for those agencies to either issue a certificate of crossing or deny a project approval.

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