Trade Agreements Put on Fast Track
The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act (TPA)  introduced by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) easily passed its first hurdle when both House and Senate committees agreed to give President Obama fast-track authority to negotiate trade deals such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP). The bipartisan legislation also allows Congress to vote on the treaties. But the package of bills intended to speed completion of the deal also imposes difficult burdens on its negotiators. The legislation faces difficult fights over amendments on human trafficking, currency and investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS).
Renewal of Trade Preference Programs
Additionally, the AGOA Extension and Enhancement Act of 2015,  introduced by Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (R-Ore.) along with House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-Mich.), would renew both the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and provide continued trade benefits for Haiti. The committees assigned to this bill sent it to the House or Senate as a whole for consideration on April 23, 2015.
The bipartisan bill authorizes the following:
- Retroactive renewal of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program, through December 2017.
- Ten-year renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) , which is currently scheduled to expire on September 30, 2015, through September 2025.
- Extension of the Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement Act (HOPE) and the Haiti Economic Lift Program (HELP) programs for products from Haiti through September 30, 2025.
“The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015”
The Committees also approved a Customs Reauthorization Bill, or as officially titled, “The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015.” The Bill has several key sections that:
- Provides particular focus on ensuring collection of revenue from antidumping and countervailing duties; investigating evasion and transshipment to avoid antidumping and countervailing duties; ensuring consistent and effective assessment and collection of penalties; and auditing the adequacy of policies regarding in-bond movements of cargo.
- Enhances the import-related protection of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR).
- Requires Customs brokers to collect information on the identity of importers, with penalties for failure to comply.
- Requires CBP to collect additional information and levy financial requirements on “nonresident importers” to increase revenue protection.
- Raises the value below which an entry is not required from $200 to $800 to reduce paperwork burdens and facilitate the movement of cargo.
- Amends Chapter 98 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) of the United States by: (1) reducing record-keeping burden on goods returned to the United States without improvement abroad so that duties are not assessed twice (HTS 9801); and (2) modernizing existing inventory management rules by subtracting the value of U.S. components assembled into the final product that will be entered into U.S. commerce for articles exported and returned after being improved abroad (HTS 9802)