Customs Enforcementby Representative Earl Blumenauer
Posted on 2015-12-10
BLUMENAUER. Mr. Speaker, there has been a great deal of
discussion about trade agreements, but there is another important piece
of legislation that deals with Customs. This is an often obscure
element, but it makes a huge difference to be able to manage the
hundreds of billions of dollars of products that leave the United
States and those that are imported.
The Customs bill represents important work by our Ways and Means Committee and our colleagues in the Senate Finance Committee finally reaching conclusion. I am pleased with many of the key results. It includes items that are not in the headlines, but are very important to the people that I represent.
For example, the legislation will help our growing outdoor industry by creating new definitions and tariff classifications for recreational performance outerwear.
It reduces costly taxes on outdoor footwear, which both supports the outdoor recreation industry and makes it more affordable for people to get outside and enjoy our beautiful parks and trails.
It includes the full ENFORCE Act, requiring immediate action to investigate and address trade cheaters and take measures to stop those who continually attempt to circumvent the penalties already imposed upon them.
As our trade agreements become more complex, so, too, has trade enforcement. We can no longer rely on a handful of agencies to effectively protect our market from tax cheaters. It requires a whole government approach, and this is why it is critical to see the bill permanently establish the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center to centralize and enhance trade enforcement efforts.
It finally puts into law a ban on the import of goods made with child and forced labor. This will reshape markets and provide additional tools to confront horrific work conditions around the world.
Very important for me, it will help ensure our trade agreements actually are enforced. A lack of enforcement is a justifiable criticism of people who are skeptical of trade agreements, who wonder is it worth the paper that it is printed on to have labor and environmental protections.
Well, the greatest obstacle to enforcement has been lack of resources. Enforcing trade agreements is expensive, time consuming, and highly complex. That is why I fought hard to include in this legislation elements that I have introduced, along with Senator Maria Cantwell, the Trade STRONGER Act, which creates a trade enforcement and capacity-building fund which would not only provide more resources for the enforcement of labor and environment violations, but helps the fund managed by the USTR be accessible government-wide, not only for enforcement, but for in-country capacity building, helping our current and future trading partners implement the labor and environmental provisions they have committed to.
This is an important step forward because, regardless of what one feels about a particular trade treaty, I think everyone agrees they ought to be enforced.
This Customs bill, in addition to promoting the trade process more effectively and providing relief for some inequitable treatment for products so important to my constituents, establishes more resources to make sure our trade agreements are, in fact, enforced.
This has been the result of long and arduous negotiations, but done in a spirit of cooperation and goodwill.
I particularly want to thank the efforts of Speaker Paul Ryan and Ways and Means Committee Chair Kevin Brady, who have worked with me in a spirit of cooperation to make sure the enforcement provisions are effective. I appreciate this.
I think this will be an achievement that we all should support because we will all benefit from it.