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Chairman Charles Rangel (Democrat-New York) of the Ways and Means Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced on January 14, 2009 the 'Trade Enforcement Act' (H.R.496). The bill would inter alia strengthen and broaden trade-remedy laws, increase enforcement capabilities, and add new penalties for violations. The legislation would also establish a uniform system that would identify imports and participants in the international supply chain. Among the cosponsors of this bill is Chairman Sander Levin (Democrat-Michigan) of the Ways and Means Committee's Trade Subcommittee.
The bill was not acted upon before the 111th Congress (2009-2010) adjourned.
Title I of the bill would establish a new 'Office of the Congressional Trade Enforcer,' whose duties would include 'ensur'ing' compliance by trading partners of the United States with trade agreements' and would give the enforcer the power to investigate foreign trade violations and submit an indictment (i.e., 'a formal written analysis setting forth the legal explanation of the manner in which a foreign trade practice of a country or countries violates any of the Uruguay Round Agreements or any bilateral or regional trade agreement to which the United States is a party') requiring the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to initiate a dispute-resolution action or be required to publish the reasons for inaction. The USTR would also be required on an annual basis to 'identify priority foreign country practices the elimination of which is likely to have the most significant potential to increase United States exports, either directly or through the establishment of a beneficial precedent,' and if 'a satisfactory resolution of the priority foreign country practices involved has not been reached within 90 days,' the USTR shall initiate a formal investigation. The USTR is directed by the bill to 'seek to negotiate an agreement that provides for the elimination of the practices that are the subject of the investigation as quickly as possible or, if elimination of the practices is not feasible, an agreement that provides for compensatory trade benefits.'
Title II would make several changes to U.S. trade-remedy law. It would codify in law the application of U.S. countervailing duty laws to nonmarket economies. It would also address certain recent rulings by the World Trade Organization's Dispute Settlement Body regarding U.S. trade-remedy laws. With respect to the issue of 'zeroing,' for example, it would express the sense of the Congress that 'in negotiations and dispute settlement proceedings at the WTO, the United States should ... restore the balance between rights and obligations that was struck during the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations, as reflected in the Agreement on Implementation of Article VI of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994, including by eliminating the requirement to offset dumped sales with non-dumped sales.'
Title III deals with the enforcement of health and safety rules, and of intellectual property rights, at the border. Under section 302 all importers and those involved in any portion of the international supply chain would be required to receive a unique 'identifier' that would be incorporated into the International Trade Data System (ITDS) and Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) for use by Federal agencies 'so as to permit departments and agencies to share and exchange authorized data on such goods, importers, manufacturers, facilities, exporters, and suppliers.' It provides in part that
The Secretary 'of the Treasury', acting through the Commissioner 'responsible for U.S. Customs and Border Protection', shall, in consultation with the heads of the relevant departments and agencies, establish a government-wide, uniform data system to uniquely identify all goods imported or destined for importation into the United States and, with respect to such goods, all importers of record, foreign manufacturers, foreign processing facilities, foreign exporters, foreign suppliers, and ultimate consignees. The system shall contain unique identifiers for each participant in the international supply chain. The unique identifiers shall be incorporated into the International Trade Data System established under section 411(d) of the Tariff Act of 1930 and into the Automated Commercial Environment, so as to permit departments and agencies to share and exchange authorized data on such goods, importers, manufacturers, facilities, exporters, and suppliers.
Section 304 would establish a Federal-private sector 'Import Safety Program.' Under this program, companies that are already participants in the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) program would be promised expedited Customs handling, in exchange for which they would have to show compliance with a series of requirements.
Other provisions would strengthen penalties against counterfeiting and other intellectual property violations. Section 312, for example, establishes a Director of Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement of the Department of the Treasury, and section 313 requires that this director 'develop, for approval by the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, an annual strategic plan for the enforcement of intellectual property rights.' Section 327 requires that the commissioner responsible for U.S. Customs and Border Protection 'prepare a plan for the implementation of a 'Watch List' database of importers, shippers, freight forwarders, and other participants in the import, export, and transshipment process, whose activities merit additional scrutiny at ports of entry with respect to the risk of importation or transshipment of counterfeit or pirated goods and goods that are the subject to exclusion orders.'
The bill has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee, as well as the Homeland Security Committee and the Rules Committee.
For a related bill see the Global Trade Alert entry on the Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment (TRADE) Act .
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