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December 15, 2015

United States

Washington DC—Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015

 

On December 11, 2015, the USA House passed a Conference Report on the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015.  In the United States Congress, a Conference Report refers to the final version of a bill that is negotiated between the House of Representatives and the Senate via a conference committee.  It is printed and submitted to each chamber for its consideration, such as approval or disapproval.  With the Senate expected to take up the Conference Report during the week of December 14–18, 2015, the bill has moved substantially closer to becoming law.

 

The legislation includes some long-sought changes in how the USA Customs and Border Protection enforces anti-dumping and countervailing duty violations that have been pushed for years by USA domestic shrimp producers.  It will set up a new enforcement body within Customs, with its own budget, and it will have the power to request information from foreign suppliers it suspects may be violating USA anti-dumping or countervailing duty laws.  The bill allows Customs to accept any allegations if the company so targeted fails to respond to its inquiries.

 

The bill also allows Customs wider latitude to bar imports based on statistical suspicion of evasion of countervailing duty or anti-dumping rules, and expands the data customs is permitted to use to make these statistical inferences.  In essence, the bill potentially exposes any sudden large-scale shift of imports from a country with shrimp anti-dumping to a third country to Customs investigation.

 

The legislation emphasizes preventing illegal imports before they enter the USA market and harm domestic industries.

 

The current version of the legislation would:

 

• Create a new entity within Customs called the “Trade Remedy Law Enforcement Division”, which would be responsible for directing enforcement and compliance activities for the agency and serving as the primary liaison between the agency and the public on the issue of evasion.

 

• Charge the new Division with establishing targeted risk assessment methodologies and standards that would, among other things, result in the issuance of Trade Alerts to enhance monitoring and inspection activities at USA ports of entries.

 

• Authorize the new Division to collect information through questionnaires to identify instances of evasion and, should parties fail to respond or otherwise refuse to comply with requests for information, permit the Division to make adverse inferences against them as part of its decision-making process.

 

• Facilitate greater exchange of information within and amongst the various federal agencies responsible for administering the country’s trade remedy laws.

 

• Instruct the new Division to provide technical assistance and advice to small businesses in the preparation and submission of allegations of evasion.

 

• Obligate the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to seek to negotiate and enter into bilateral agreements with customs authorities of other countries to improve cooperation on the prevention of evasion of trade remedy laws.

 

• Require the USA Trade Representative to seek improvement of cooperation amongst customs authorities to prevent evasion of trade remedy laws as part of its principal negotiating objectives.

 

• Insure that Customs annually report to Congress on all of the agency’s activities to prevent and address trade evasion.

 

Moreover, the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 additionally contains provisions endowing Customs with greater authority to address the fly-by-night importers that facilitate circumvention schemes, removes restrictions on the use of certain commercial data that can serve as early warning indicators of evasion and fraud, and requires Customs brokers to take more responsibility for validating the authenticity of importers whom they represent in import transactions.  Further, the legislation will strengthen an eighty-five-year-old law prohibiting the importation of goods made by prison, slave and child labor.

 

Source: Seafood.com (an online, subscription-based, fisheries news service).  Editor and Publisher, John Sackton (phone 1-781-861-1441, email jsackton@seafood.com).  House Passes Conference Report That Will Strengthen Domestic Shrimp Producers Fight Against Imports.  John Sackton.  December 14, 2015.

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