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Trade Subcommittee Chairman Smith Opening Statement: Hearing on Modernizing Customs Policies to Protect American Workers & Secure Supply Chains

September 12, 2023

As prepared for delivery.

Thank you, Ranking Member Blumenauer, and to our witnesses and subcommittee members for being here today. Today’s subcommittee hearing is an important step as the House Ways and Means Committee considers updates to custom laws to ensure Customs and Border Protection has the right policies in place to enforce our laws effectively, facilitate legitimate trade, and provide clarity to the private sector.


Congress has periodically made meaningful updates to customs laws; however, it has been 30 years since our last comprehensive overhaul. In the three decades since then, we have seen the emergence of e-commerce, major supply chain challenges – many of which stemmed from a global pandemic, changes in consumer behavior, and the rise of China as a much larger player global trade. Congress must do more to secure our key supply chains, modernize how and with whom we trade, and hold China accountable for its abusive trade practices.


I’m eager for this committee to lead a thoughtful process to consider updates that reflect our current reality – and we’re off to a strong start. Earlier this month, the full committee held a field hearing at the Port in Staten Island, New York, to better understand challenges Americans face moving goods through ports every day.


As part of our continued efforts, we must also examine how best to give law enforcement the tools needed to stop illicit products like fentanyl from entering the U.S. Likewise, we must take steps to prevent products made with forced labor from entering the U.S., all while supporting American jobs and improving American competitiveness. I’m convinced we can advance a bipartisan legislative product that minimizes unnecessary red tape when importing and exporting, addresses supply chain bottlenecks while holding China accountable, and stops illegal – often dangerous – products from crossing our borders.

Both CBP and private sector partners play pivotal roles in targeting bad actors abroad. Last year, Congress appropriated $100 million for CBP to enforce the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. These increased resources must lead to fair and effective enforcement and improved clarity on what information CBP requires to determine a supply chain is free of forced labor. This subcommittee will continue to provide robust oversight on this front.

Recently, there have been substantial discussions about de minimis policies and how to ensure they function as intended. It is always appropriate to review our policies and consider whether updates are needed. As Trade Subcommittee Chairman, I’m committed to ensuring this conversation considers both the benefits and challenges of de minimis in the world today.

I must also express my deep concern about the White House’s repeated attempts to exclude Congress from key trade actions. This approach to trade only emboldens China while ignoring the wishes the American people. While multiple administrations have pushed the envelope by seeking to advance trade negotiations through Executive Agreements rather than seeking approval from Congress, the Biden administration has vastly overstepped their authority.


Most recently, this administration has taken unprecedented action to redefine what a Free Trade Agreement is for, and I quote, “Critical Mineral Agreements.” These agreements do nothing to create U.S. jobs or reduce our reliance on China. There has been growing bipartisan recognition that Congress must assert our constitutional authority over international trade, and I am pleased to work with Ranking Member Blumenauer and other colleagues on this important issue.


I look forward to working with my colleagues to examine all sides of complex customs issues. Our work must result in policies that make the United States as competitive as possible by improving trade enforcement and expanding opportunities for American workers – both in the near- and long-term.