Aaron Fobes, Julia Lawless (202)224-4515
Hatch Calls on Senate to Advance Bipartisan Customs Bill
WASHINGTON – In a speech today on the Senate floor, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) called on his Senate colleagues to advance the bipartisan Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, also known as the Customs bill, saying it is necessary modernize and promote legitimate trade, improve enforcement and strengthen Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). Hatch, a coauthor of the bill, outlined how Customs is the latest in a list of bipartisan trade legislation to come to the Senate floor for a vote.
“Last spring, Republicans and Democrats on the Finance Committee came together to draft and report four major pieces of trade legislation, three of which have already been signed into law. That, of course, included our TPA bill, a bill to renew important trade preferences programs, and another bill to reauthorize the Trade Adjustment Assistance program. The fourth was our Customs bill, the one we’ll hopefully pass today,” Hatch said. “These four bills represented the priorities of members throughout the Senate and on both sides of the aisle. Collectively, they will shape the policy landscape on trade – not just here in the U.S., but around the world as well – for years to come. Perhaps more importantly, they also represent what is possible when members of both parties work together to achieve common goals.”
Hatch called on his colleagues to enact the remaining trade bill into law.
“Of those four bills, the Customs bill is the only one that hasn’t been enacted into law. I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll rectify that later today,” Hatch continued. “And, I’m hoping that, just like the three other trade bills, the Customs bill will pass with broad, bipartisan support.”
The complete speech, as prepared for delivery, is below:
Mr. President, today the Senate is poised to take a major step forward in advancing a robust agenda for international trade that better reflects the realities of the 21st Century global economy and provides real benefits for our country.
Later today, the Senate will vote on and hopefully pass the conference report for H.R. 644, the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, legislation that we originally passed last May.
I am a co-author of this legislation, and many of the provisions in this conference report have been in the works for several years. I also chaired the conference committee that was charged with reconciling the differences between the Senate- and House-passed versions of the bill. The conference was, in my view, a huge success, and I believe our report represents a strong bipartisan, bicameral agreement to address a number of trade policy priorities.
I want to talk about some of the specifics of this legislation, which most of us generally refer to as “the Customs bill.”
Once this bill is signed into law – and I hope it will be in short order – it will enact policies designed to achieve three main goals.
The first goal is to facilitate and streamline the flow of legitimate trade into and out of the United States.
The bill makes a number of changes to reduce bureaucracy and to improve consultation among executive agencies, Congress, and the private-sector.
These changes will facilitate trade and improve our competitiveness by reducing unnecessary burdens and delays created by our overly bureaucratic system, which, in turn, will help create jobs and grow our economy.
The second major goal of the Customs bill is to improve enforcement of our trade laws. It does so in a number of ways.
For example, the bill establishes a new and improved process at CBP for dealing with evasion of our antidumping and countervailing duties laws and provides clear direction and robust tools for identifying and addressing currency manipulation on the part of our trading partners.
It also includes dramatic improvements to better protect U.S. intellectual property rights. This has been a high priority for me as most of my colleagues know. And, it’s a high priority for the people of my state of Utah, a state whose economy is highly dependent on strong intellectual property rights.
Combined, these enforcement provisions will provide greater protections for American workers and consumers and help ensure that foreign competitors will not have unfair advantages in the global marketplace.
The third major goal of the Customs conference report is to strengthen the Trade Promotion Authority statute that we enacted last year, reflecting various priorities and concerns from members of both parties.
For example, the bill clearly and strongly reaffirms that trade agreements should not include, and TPA procedures should not be used with respect to, provisions dealing with immigration policy or greenhouse gas emissions. It also creates a new negotiating objective to remove barriers facing American fisherman who export into foreign markets. And, it improves procedures relating to the reporting of human trafficking.
While this Customs bill was specifically designed to address these three policy goals, it goes further to address other priorities as well.
For example, the bill will combat politically motivated boycotts, divestments, and sanctions against Israel, bolstering our already strong economic ties with one of our most important strategic allies. And, it provides trade preferences for Nepal in order to promote economic recovery in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake last year.
Before I conclude, I do want to note that a number of my colleagues – as well as businesses and job creators around the country – were hoping that the conference report on the Customs bill would include a reauthorization of the Miscellaneous Tariff Bills or MTBs.
I want to make clear that I support MTBs and want to get them passed. That’s
why they were included in the original Senate-passed version of the Customs bill.
There are, of course, some procedural concerns that complicate the MTBs – particularly over in the House – which have made it difficult to reach a workable compromise. However, the conference report does include a strong sense-of-Congress statement reaffirming our shared commitment to advancing MTB legislation in a process that provides robust consultation and is consistent with both House and Senate rules.
I also want to reaffirm my own personal commitment, as the
Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, to work with my colleagues to find a path forward on MTBs that will work for those on both sides of the Capitol.
Needless to say, Mr. President, I am very pleased with how this conference report turned out.
I have many people I want to thank – and I will thank them once the bill gets done. For now, I specifically want to thank the vice-chair of the conference committee, Chairman Kevin Brady for his work on both the committee itself and on the substance of the report. I also want to thank the Ranking Member of the Finance Committee, Senator Wyden, for his efforts to ensure passage of this conference report.
Last spring, Republicans and Democrats on the Finance Committee came together to draft and report four major pieces of trade legislation, three of which have already been signed into law. That, of course, included our TPA bill, a bill to renew important trade preferences programs, and another bill to reauthorize the Trade Adjustment Assistance program. The fourth was our Customs bill, the one we’ll hopefully pass today.
These four bills represented the priorities of members throughout the Senate and on both sides of the aisle. Collectively, they will shape the policy landscape on trade – not just here in the U.S., but around the world as well – for years to come. Perhaps more importantly, they also represent what is possible when members of both parties work together to achieve common goals.
Of those four bills, the Customs bill is the only one that hasn’t been enacted into law. I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll rectify that later today. And, I’m hoping that, just like the three other trade bills, the Customs bill will pass with broad, bipartisan support.
I urge all of my colleagues to vote later today to advance the Customs bill to the President’s desk and to put in place these much needed reforms.
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