The Trade Facilitation and Enforcement Act of 2015

The Trade Facilitation and Enforcement Act of 2015 was passed by the Senate on February 11th, 2016 in a 75-20 vote. Now that the bill has been passed by the House and the Senate, the final piece of the puzzle is for President Obama to sign the bill into law. Given that this is projected to be enacted by the President soon, it is imperative for international traders to understand its key provisions.

The Act is split into 9 different sections with an overall focus on facilitating and enforcing trade; this will help to promote U.S. global opportunities while keeping the playing field level and fair. Key provisions of the Act focus on enhancing enforcement of international trade laws, providing stronger protection for international intellectual property, and modernizing U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processes. According to an article published by The Washington Examiner, “Current customs rules that have not fully embraced technological and trade advances are creating bottlenecks at the border that impede the just-in-time manufacturing process, which is critical to the productivity, efficiency, and global competitiveness of the U.S.” Passing this bill marks the first, long overdue, significant update to CBP processes and policies in over 10 years.

Three aspects of the bill are of particular interest. First, the focus on strengthening anti-evasion procedures is key via establishment of a Trade Remedy Law Enforcement Division at CBP’s Office of Trade. This division will be specifically aimed at preventing the evasion of antidumping and countervailing duty orders. If it is determined that evasion has occurred, CBP is required to suspend liquidation of entries and enforce the appropriate cash deposit rate for the merchandise. Updates streamline the process for investigating evasion and assessing the corresponding penalty.

Another area of focus in the bill is intellectual property protection, manifested through the creation of a greater National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center. It will focus on investigating sources of merchandise that infringe intellectual property rights. The thought is to advance U.S. competitiveness globally by identifying those responsible for producing, smuggling, or distributing copyrighted and/or trademarked merchandise, rather than just seizing the end products when discovered.

Lastly, the Act drastically alters provisions regarding duty drawback. Essentially new provisions simplify drawback procedures by extending the deadline for filing drawback claims. It rises to five years while creating more transparency in the calculation of drawback refunds, and establishing a standard for classification of substitution drawback items.

Overall, this seems to be a piece of legislation that will help to advance the American economy when signed into law. While this brief post is only able to focus on certain key highlights, there are many changes proposed within the Trade Facilitation and Enforcement Act of 2015 that are significant and impactful. To view the bill in its entirety, please visit the following link: https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/644/text

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