US Passes Trade Facilitation and Enforcement Act

Francisco A. Laguna

After more than two years of debate, last week, the United States Senate passed the Trade Facilitation and Enforcement Act of 2015 (2015 Trade Enforcement Act). The legislation contains the most far reaching set of changes since the Customs Modernization (MOD) Act. Of particular significance is the inclusion of brand new measures to protect intellectual property rights and to combat antidumping and countervailing duty violations, including a mandate that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) establish its own program for these purposes.

By U.S. Customs and Border Patrol

By U.S. Customs and Border Patrol

Surprisingly, the major provisions of the Act received almost universal support from the trade community. The House had passed the bill last year, but it got bogged down in the Senate because of an unrelated internet sales tax provision. While the provision remains in the final version of the law passed by the Senate, the Senate leadership in return has agreed to take up new Internet sales tax legislation this year. President Obama is anticipated to sign the legislation into law this week.

The 2015 Trade Enforcement Act makes some significant changes to the operations and programs of CBP, adds new provisions to the antidumping and countervailing duty laws, including new procedures to combat evasion of AD/CVD orders, and revamps the drawback laws.

This week, we begin a short summary of the more significant changes. We will continue our summary next week.

Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement (Title I)

Title I establishes a various trade facilitation and enforcement programs. It:

By WestportWiki - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34507625

By WestportWiki – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34507625

  • requires CBP to work with the private sector and other federal agencies to ensure that all CBP partnership programs provide meaningful trade benefits to program participants;
  • authorizes CBP programs, including customs modernization efforts such as the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) and the International Trade Data System (ITDS), also known as the “Single Window” approach to collecting trade data;
  • formalizes the Commercial Customs Advisory Committee (COAC) and the Centers of Excellence and Expertise (CEEs);
  • creates a National Targeting Center (NTC) within the Office of Field Operations that will gather data and assess risk on each of CBP’s Priority Trade Issues (PTIs): 1) agricultural programs; 2) antidumping and countervailing duties; 3) import safety; 4) intellectual property rights; 5) revenue; 6) textiles and wearing apparel; and 7) trade agreements and preference programs;
  • requires CBP to develop criteria for assigning importer-of-record identification numbers; and
  • establishes a new importer program that directs CBP to adjust bond amounts for new importers based on the level of risk assessed by CBP for revenue protection. CBP is required to develop risk-based guidelines and procedures to ensure increased oversight of imported products of new importers, including new non-resident importers.

Import Health and Safety (Title II)

Title II creates an interagency import safety working group, chaired by the Secretary of Homeland Security. The group is responsible for developing a joint import safety rapid response plan to establish protocols and practices that CBP, in conjunction with other federal, state and local authorities, must use when responding to cargo that poses a threat to the health or safety of US consumers. Title II also requires joint exercises with these entities and training for CBP port personnel in enforcement of import health and safety laws.

Import-Related Protection of Intellectual Property Rights (Title III)

Enforcement of intellectual property rights remains one of CBP’s highest priorities. Accordingly, the provisions of Title III will be one of the most scrutinized areas of the 2015 Trade Enforcement Act. Specifically, Title III:

  • authorizes and directs CBP to share information with rights holders so that they could help to quickly identify whether a product entering the United States is in violation of a copyright or trademark. Rights holders could even examine and test the merchandise;
  • authorizes CBP to seize merchandise if it is found to be in circumvention of IPR laws;
  • requires CBP to notify an injured right holder if they are included on an annually revised, CBP-maintained list (i.e., if rights are recorded with CBP);
  • establishes a National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center within CBP to coordinate actions with other agencies and conduct outreach to importers; and
  • calls for an increase in IPR enforcement personnel.

Enforcement of Trade Remedy Laws (Title IV)

The Act adds significant new provisions to deter evasion of antidumping (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) orders. Directed largely at steel imports, the new provisions, called the “Enforce and Protect Act of 2015” are likely to be invoked frequently by US producers combating imports under an AD or CVD order.

U.S. Customhouse, 555 Battery St, San Francisco

U.S. Customhouse, 555 Battery St, San Francisco

In particular, the new law establishes a whole new procedure within CBP which allows US producers or wholesalers, unions, foreign manufacturers or exporters, or trade associations of a covered product to file an allegation that a party has entered covered merchandise through evasion. Importers beware!  As soon as CBP can get this procedure up and running, it is likely to be very active.

Once a complaint is filed and accepted, CBP is required to conduct a formal investigationwith specific deadlines.

CBP can issue questionnaires just like in a trade remedy cases to importers and foreign producers.

Failure to respond will result in “adverse inferences” regarding the alleged evasion.

If evasion is found, CBP can suspend liquidation, order payment of duties owed, and pursue an enforcement action.

The new anti-evasion measures of Title IV also include various directives for CBP to target and investigate potential evasion of AD and CVD orders, including setting up a new Trade Remedy Law Enforcement Division to more aggressively investigate possible evasion cases, and conducting aggressive auditing of firms at high risk. Failure to cooperate in an investigation by an importer or foreign exporter may result in a finding of evasion.

Contact TransLegal with your questions concerning the Trade Facilitation and Enforcement Act of 2015.

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