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Mar.7, 2016

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GOVERNMENT WATCH 92 THE JOURNAL OF COMMERCE www.joc.com MARCH 7.2016 By Reynolds Hutchins U.S. SENATE LAWMAKERS in February over- whelmingly passed a U.S. Customs and Border Protection bill that would stream- line import duties on goods destined to be re-exported and allow articles exported from the country to be commingled for the first time. The bill also would toughen U.S. trade law enforcement and rules against currency manipulation. The Senate passed the legislation in a 75-20 vote after the bill had stalled because of an Internet tax ban included in its final language. President Obama said he would sign the legislation. It's the fourth and final trade bill con- gressional Republicans have vowed to pass. It's also the first overhaul of Customs in some 15 years and one that many have said is long overdue. It marks a "a major step forward" for the U.S. in international trade, said Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who helped spearhead the legislation. "This bill is about coming down hard on the trade cheats who are ripping off American jobs and, the truth is, past trade policies were often too old, too slow or too weak for our country to fight back," Wyden said. Overall, the bill would reauthorize U.S. Customs and Border Protection, stream- line trade rules that aim to keep importers from avoiding U.S. anti-dumping and coun- tervailing duties, add new protections for intellectual property rights and provide more tools to identify and address currency manipulation. The bill also would streamline drawback, or the amount of excise or import duty remit- ted on imported goods that the importer re-exports rather than sells domestically. The leg islation would standardize the timeframes for filing drawback and modernize claimant recordkeeping require- ments. Drawback claimants would have to retain records for five years after liquidation. Drawback claims would have to be filed elec- tronically and no later than five years after the date on which the merchandise is imported or, if the claim is based on merchandise imported on more than one date, the earliest date. "It really tries to streamline and sim- plify the drawback system and modernize it so more people can take advantage of it," Marianne Rowden, president and CEO of the American Association of Exporters and Importers, told The Journal of Commerce in December when the bill passed the House. The legislation also would grant duty- free treatment to any exported product returned to the U.S. within three years of being exported and certain U.S. government property returned to the country. Articles exported from the U.S. also are allowed to be commingled and, for the first time, the ori- gin, value and classification of such articles may be accounted for using an inventory management method. It should be especially beneficial to North America trade, Rowden said, where "some people use warehouses or distribution cen- ters in Canada and Mexico along the border and goods are moving in and out all the time." The bill stops short of sanctions on cur- rency manipulation, but would allow the U.S. to bar countries from trade deals and government procurement contracts if they artificially devalue their currencies to gain a competitive advantage through cheaper exports. JOC Contact Reynolds Hutchins at reynolds.hutchins@ihs.com and folllow him on Twitter: @Hutchins_JOC. CUSTOMS BILL MOVES TO WHITE HOUSE Legislation would streamline import duties and add protections for intellectual property rights to the latter," he said in a statement. Savannah wasn't the only port that elected officials felt had been shortchanged. Jacksonville's harbor-deepening project is nearing the end of its design phase, and offi- cials hope to see it finished by the end of the decade. The project would take the St. Johns River from 40 to 47 feet and has a price tag of about $711 million. Although federal funds were authorized more than a year ago, the Obama budget failed to request any money for the project. Days after the budget was unveiled, there were no answers why the port's project had been left out. For many analysts, it's a matter of too many projects and insufficient funds. "I don't know the reasoning behind the non- budgeting of the Jaxport harbor project, but there are always authorized projects wait- ing in line for funding," Paul Bea, principal of maritime consultant PHB Public Affairs, told The Journal of Commerce. Like their Georgia counterparts, elected officials in Florida were up in arms and said they would press the White House for answers. "I am very disappointed," Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., said in a statement. It's important, however, to note the figure included in the Obama budget is likely to change as the proposal makes its way through Congress and a final budget is approved for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. Indeed, after the White House fell short on a number of port funding requests last year, Congress ultimately awarded more than the president requested. The funding for the Harbor Main- tenance Trust Fund and corps coastal navigation projects and studies that was arrived at in December was a 7.1 percent increase over the $1.12 billion Congress approved a year before and significantly more than Obama's fiscal 2016 budget request of $915 million. Even if the approved budget still falls short this year, Bea said Congress is able to have other work funded or assign additional money to projects. JOC Contact Reynolds Hutchins at reynolds.hutchins@ihs.com and follow him on Twitter: @Hutchins_JOC.

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