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Reichert Opening Statement at Trade Hearing on “Effective Enforcement of U.S. Trade Laws”

September 27, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Chairman Dave Reichert (R-WA) delivered the following opening statement at a Subcommittee hearing entitled “Effective Enforcement of U.S. Trade Laws.”

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Good morning. The Subcommittee will come to order. Welcome to the Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee hearing on Effective Enforcement of U.S. trade laws. And I’d like to extend a special warm welcome to our witness, the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Gil Kerlikowske – a fellow law enforcement colleague from the great state of Washington. Before hearing from the Commissioner, I’d like to make a few points.

“Robust enforcement of our trade agreements and our trade laws is essential to ensuring that American businesses and workers are treated fairly by our trading partners. Strong trade enforcement goes hand-in-hand with the opening of new markets through trade agreements. It’s part of our commitment to the American people that we don’t just sign trade agreements and let our manufacturers, farmers, service providers, and workers fend for themselves. If foreign competitors don’t play by the rules and ignore their obligations, we call them out. 

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) plays a key role in ensuring that our trade agreements and our trade laws are enforced, and that legitimate trade is facilitated. Customs serves as the nuts and bolts of trade, and a strong customs service is vital to our competitiveness, safety, and security. Over the years, the volume and complexity of trade has grown. And the challenges that we confront, such as stopping the evasion of antidumping and countervailing duties and protecting U.S. intellectual property rights, have grown as well. As we face increasing competition around the world, we must keep legitimate trade flowing by focusing our enforcement efforts on high-risk trade.

“The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act, or “the customs bill,” which became law earlier this year, was the result of many years of hard work and commitment by Members of this Committee on both sides of the aisle. In it we established the necessary balance between trade facilitation and trade enforcement that will help American businesses succeed and keep us competitive.  

“Streamlining legitimate trade will increase U.S. competitiveness in the global marketplace and create jobs here at home. The customs bill reduces paperwork burdens for low-value shipments by increasing the de minimis threshold – where paperwork is not required – from $200 to $800, as well as for U.S. goods returned and for residue of bulk cargo contained in tankers. These improvements save time and money for our small, medium, and large businesses that drive our economy. The customs bill also modernizes and simplifies duty drawback, a popular job-creating export program in place since 1789. 

“To increase accountability, the customs bill also strengthens and establishes reporting requirements for existing CBP trade facilitation programs, such as the Centers for Excellence and Expertise, trusted trader programs, and the Automated Commercial Environment. These programs cut the red tape in government, reward businesses for good citizenship, and streamline trade. The customs bill reporting requirements allow us to do our job, as the committee of oversight, of ensuring that CBP stays on track with these programs.  

“Strengthening enforcement of U.S. trade laws is the other major pillar of the customs bill. Enforcing U.S. intellectual property rights and antidumping and countervailing duty laws prevents our competitors from gaining an edge by cheating. The customs bill establishes tools for CBP and holds it accountable to clamp down on evasion of antidumping and countervailing duties, enhance targeting of high-risk shipments by requiring information from brokers, and strengthen internal controls over new importers. To protect intellectual property, the customs bill requires CBP to provide right holders with samples to help them determine if imported products are counterfeit.

“I want to congratulate my fellow Subcommittee members and thank them for their hard work on the customs bill: Former Trade Subcommittee Chairman Tiberi, who led our efforts together with Chairman Brady; Dr. Boustany, for his tireless efforts on the Enforce and Protect Act and modernizing drawback; Mr. Marchant, for his work on reducing paperwork burdens for residue in instruments of international traffic; Mr. Young, for his good work on the de minimis bill; and Mr. Meehan, for his efforts to require country of origin markings on certain goods, which is a common-sense approach to increasing transparency. Mr. Jason Smith and Ms. Sanchez were also very constructive in working on the Enforce and Protect Act. We also worked closely with Mr. Blumenauer and Mr. Kind on the Enforcement Fund, and they joined several of our Members in strengthening tools to combat forced labor. And Ranking Member Rangel was instrumental with regard to so many of the trade facilitation provisions. 

“Today, we will have an important discussion about CBP’s efforts to implement this critical new law, which, if carried out effectively, will enhance our global competitiveness, level the playing field for our businesses, and prevent our competitors from gaining an unfair advantage.”