WASHINGTON — Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said he is pushing legislation that would force U.S. Customs and Border Protection to provide measurable benefits to members of trusted trader programs and would require other federal agencies to speed cargo clearance at ports of entry.
However, the legislation, known as the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Reauthorization Act, hasn’t moved past the Senate Finance Committee since it was sent there in March 2013. Part of the reason the legislation has stalled is language relating to antidumping and countervailing duty enforcement, according to a letter the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent to the committee’s ranking members in October. That Max Baucus, the committee chairman who co-sponsored the bill, left to become U.S. ambassador to China didn’t help, either.
Hatch, the ranking member on the committee and co-sponsor of the bill, didn’t outline during a Chamber of Commerce speech today when the legislation could be passed. Still, Hatch’s comments are encouraging to many in the trade industry who doubt whether Customs’ trusted trader programs, in particular Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, or C-TPAT, are worth the paperwork and cost it takes to be a member. Shippers have also complained that the 47 other federal agencies that can hold or slow cargo don’t take trade facilitation seriously enough.
The bill would create the position in which an individual would be tasked with ensuring Customs meets its trade facilitation mission. A liaison position would also be created to better ensure communication between the agency and the trade community, Hatch said.
Hatch said he is aiming to help pass another bill that would increase the level of shipments entering the U.S. that would be free from tariffs, taxes or formal customs procedures. Like the Customs reauthorization bill, the Low Value Shipment Regulatory Modernization Act, which would increase the de minimis level from $200 to $800, has been stuck in committee since March 2013.
Hatch also pledged to work to renew the General System of Preferences, which lapsed in summer 2013. The GSP provides preferential duty-free entry for a variety of goods and inputs from designated developing countries.