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W&M Holds Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Accountable for Enforcing Trade Laws, Facilitating Legitimate Trade

September 27, 2016

Today, the Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA), held a hearing on U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) enforcement of U.S. trade laws and trade agreements. Members specifically focused on the agency’s implementation of the Trade Enforcement and Trade Facilitation Act—or “the Customs bill”—which was signed into law earlier this year to facilitate the flow of legitimate trade and strengthen enforcement laws so American businesses can compete and succeed on a level playing field around the world.

As Chairman Reichert said at the start of the hearing:

“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 … Today, we will have an important discussion about CBP’s efforts to implement [the Customs bill], 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.” 

While many agencies play a role in enforcing our trade laws, Chairman Reichert explained why today’s discussion focused on CBP:

“[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.”  

Describing how the Customs bill strengthens CBP’s ability to enforce trade laws, CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske said:

“We understand and recognize the importance of our enforcement efforts … Illegal and fraudulent trade practices threaten our economic competitiveness, the livelihood of American workers, and consumer safety. I certainly want to thank the Members of Congress and particularly this Committee for the [Customs bill] … CBP has been around since 2003 and had never been authorized. Now having the authorization and our regulations and rules all located in one place along with our increased enforcement authority is a huge milestone.” 

As Members discussed, the Customs bill facilitates the flow of legitimate trade, providing more resources to go after fraudulent trade. It also prevents our competitors from gaining an unfair advantage over American businesses. In particular, the new law improves enforcement of U.S. intellectual property and trade remedy laws and increases oversight efforts to hold CBP accountable to the public and to Congress for its enforcement activities.

When Chairman Reichert asked how this new law is helping CBP protect intellectual property rights and stop counterfeiting, Commissioner Kerlikowske said the agency has been successful in targeting intellectual property rights violations because of the law’s focus on collaboration with other federal agencies.

With respect to our trade remedy laws, Rep. Todd Young (R-IN) said: 

“I feel very strongly—as do so many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle—that we have to be very vigilant about enforcing trade agreements. This is why … we’ve given you new tools to go after those who would evade antidumping and countervailing duties provisions.” 

Rep. Young then emphasized the importance of negotiating new trade agreements while enforcing current ones. He asked the Commissioner: 

“There’s a school of thought out there, however, that we should wait to consummate any trade deals whatsoever until we fully enforce all existing trade agreements … what impact do you think it would have on say Indiana manufacturers, Indiana ag producers who want to sell to 95% of the world’s consumers who are outside of the U.S., if we waited until we fully enforced every existing trade agreement?”

The Commissioner reassured Members that trade agreements provide enforcement tools that CBP uses every day:

“We make a lot of seizures, we seize a lot of products that come in. We work very hard to be open and transparent with the agriculture and manufacturing stakeholders … Full enforcement is probably one of those that’s in the eye of the beholder, but I think . . . we send a strong message to the rest of the world that we’re going to work very hard to inspect and to seize and to enforce the laws that Congress has passed.”

Other Members who played a critical role in developing the Customs bill issued statements after the hearing about the importance of preventing our competitors from gaining an unfair advantage.

Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH) said:

“Unfair pricing and subsidies by foreign governments distort the free flow of goods and services, and keep American workers from competing on a level playing field. To protect jobs and ensure our economy is growing, we must stop foreign competitors from cheating and undercutting our domestic producers. That is why I testified before the U.S. International Trade Commission in May to ensure our trade laws are strictly enforced, and will continue to fight tooth and nail for fair trade.” 

Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) added:

“Congress must ensure that our trade deals are strictly enforced to ensure a level playing field for all American businesses and workers and facilitate trade that is both free and fair. The Ways and Means Committee’s efforts to ensure that the provisions of the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 are being implemented should be applauded and we commend Subcommittee Chairman Reichert for holding this important and timely hearing.”

And Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) as Steel Caucus co-chair reiterated:

“This past year, the Congressional Steel Caucus shepherded historic trade enforcement legislation and opened new markets to American-made steel products. The legislation is in place, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has the tools at their disposal, but now they must continue to take action to hold foreign competitors accountable through increased detection and evasion prevention at our borders. I implore Commissioner Kerlikowske to aggressively enforce our new trade laws to the fullest extent to protect American workers from foreign cheaters.”

Ways and Means Republicans will continue to work diligently with federal agencies to ensure our trade deals are strongly enforced so Americans can succeed in the global market.

CLICK HERE for more information about today’s hearing.