Providing for Consideration of Conference Report on H.R. 644, Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, and Providing for Consideration of Senate Amendments to H.R. 2250, Legislative…by Representative Earl Blumenauer
Posted on 2015-12-11
BLUMENAUER. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the gentleman's courtesy.
I am here to speak in support of the Customs bill that we will be facing later today. It represents significant progress over the version from earlier this summer that I opposed. Part of this progress is due to strong bipartisan support from the Senate and bipartisan give-and- take with some of my colleagues on the Ways and Means Committee.
I appreciate having worked with then-Chair Ryan and Chairman Brady to see some of these elements improve. I think it is important to recognize that the bill before us is substantially better. I know there are concerns by some of my friends about currency manipulation, which I share, and we have been pushing for and secured stronger provisions.
In the Customs bill, we have elements that represent the give-and- take of a legislative process, working with the administration; and the provisions, while no one would suggest they are perfect, are substantially better than the situation we have right now. We will be better off with the currency provisions in the Customs bill.
It contains many provisions that I fought for that are important to my constituents--businesses in the Pacific Northwest--dealing with unfair and outmoded tariff provisions, dealing with things like performance outerwear, that I know I share with my friend from Colorado. These are important both in terms of businesses that we represent and constituents that we represent who value that equipment-- the shoes, the outdoor apparel--and making it more affordable.
Beyond the elements of making sure that the Customs system works more appropriately, there are important things that I think all of us can point to and be enthusiastic about. Both speakers have mentioned the end of the importation of products that are made by child and forced labor. There are strong provisions here to help us keep that out of the stream of commerce.
My friend from Oklahoma referenced the ENFORCE Act, and there have been problems--tires, solar panels--up in my area. We have had people cheat and do so with impunity. Incorporating the provisions of the ENFORCE Act gives us the tools to go after the cheaters, to make them pay, and to protect American companies and their employees.
It permanently establishes the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center to centralize and enforce trade enforcement. This is an area that I have been working on throughout this process. In the Ways and Means Committee, I introduced the STRONGER Act with my friend and former fellow Northwesterner, Senator Maria Cantwell from Washington, to deal with ways to better enforce our agreements.
Today trade agreements are complex and trade enforcement takes a long period of time. They are expensive. Frankly, we are not equipped as well as we should be to do the job of protecting Americans by enforcing and implementing these agreements.
This legislation includes the trust fund for enforcement and in- country capacity building. It provides for up to $30 million a year. It may not seem like much when we are talking about hundreds of billions of dollars in the Federal Government, but when you consider that the budget of the United States Trade Representative is less than $60 million to do all of the things with which they are charged, being able to have a $30 million a year enforcement fund is a very significant advancement.
Now, I am mindful of the extraneous climate provisions. I think they are unfortunate and should have been left out. I think my Republican friends in the future are going to be embarrassed by doing things like this, particularly when the rest of the world is in Paris, working to try and help deal with the crisis that is carbon pollution and climate change.
As a practical matter, again, the result of working with the administration and people in the Senate, the provision that is stuck in the bill, yes, is confusing, but it is much better than it was in June, and I am convinced it doesn't change the status quo at all, nor prohibit other efforts in different forums, such as Paris.
The optics are bad for my Republican friends, I think, and I do believe that they will rue the day for doing things like this. But, as a practical matter, we are not going to solve our climate problems through international trade. This doesn't change that.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has expired.