House Passes Customs Bill By a Vote of 256-158

On Friday, December 11, the House passed, by a vote of 256-158, the House-Senate Conference Report for the “Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015” (H.R. 644). All 6 of NJ’s House Democrats (Reps. Norcross, Watson Coleman, Pallone, Sires, Payne, and Pascrell) voted against the bill, as well as NJ House Republican Chris Smith, who was one of only 3 House Republicans to vote against it. NJ House Republican Reps. LoBiondo, MacArthur, Lance, Frelinghuysen, and Garrett all voted in favor of the bill. Read more here.

Here’s the summary of the legislation from House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer’s (D-MD) office:

The Conference Report facilitates trade by strengthening trade enforcement, including provisions to guard against evasion of anti-dumping and countervailing duty laws, protect intellectual property against piracy, and target sources of unfair trade and provisions streamlining the flow of legitimate trade by modernizing Customs operations and reducing paperwork. Also, it closes a loophole in current law that allows the importation of products made using child or forced labor.

The Conference Report contains a modified version of the House language barring the inclusion of climate change provisions in fast track trade deals.  While the language is improved, it still would single out greenhouse gas emission provisions as being ineligible for inclusion in a trade deal, raising concerns about its impact on efforts to protect the environment in trade deals as called for in the May 10, 2007, Agreement setting out Democratic priorities for trade negotiations.

The Conference Report adopted House language regarding currency manipulation instead of the Senate currency provisions that would make currency undervaluation an illegal subsidy subject to countervailing duty laws. The House language would direct the Secretary of the Treasury to address currency manipulation through “enhanced bilateral engagement.”

In addressing the issue of human trafficking, the Conference Report modifies Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) language excluding countries from being eligible for TPA “fast track” procedures if they are cited in the State Department Human Trafficking report as Tier 3 countries. The Conference Report language allows such countries to be eligible under TPA, so long as the President certifies that they are taking “concrete steps” to improve.

Lastly, the Conference Report contains the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act, which makes permanent the federal moratorium on new state and local internet access taxes.

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