U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), a member of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, issued the following statement after the Senate adopted the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 (H.R. 644) conference report, which included several Thune-led provisions that will directly benefit South Dakota, by a vote of 75-20:
“Free trade is only fair trade if our trading partners from around the world play by the rules,” said Thune. “Passing this legislation sends a strong message to our trading partners that the United States is serious about efficiently and effectively enforcing our trade laws. Failure to do so will hurt American jobs, innovation, and safety. From greater protection of American intellectual property to new measures that combat the circumvention of tariffs, like honey laundering, this conference report includes a wide range of provisions to ensure that we can stop fraudulent trade practices.”
Earlier today, Thune spoke on the Senate floor about the importance of passing the conference report, which now heads to President Obama for his signature.
Thune-led provisions included in the conference report:
1. Protecting consumers from higher taxes on Internet service:
Adopts the Thune Internet Tax Freedom Forever Act, legislation he introduced with U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), which prevents state and local jurisdictions from imposing taxes on Internet access and multiple and discriminatory taxes on e-commerce. Also included was a four-year grandfather provision for the seven states that currently tax Internet access, including South Dakota.
2. Reducing trade barriers for low-value items:
Reduces current trade barriers and allows more low-value items to be imported into the United States duty-free with fewer unnecessary administrative requirements. The $200 de minimis exemption for imports has not been updated in over 20 years. Thune’s provision – adapted from legislation he introduced with Wyden – would raise the exemption level to $800.
Also included was a Thune provision to express a “Sense of Congress” that encourages the U.S. trade representative to work with our trading partners to ensure they are also raising their de minimis limits for U.S. goods.
3. Ensuring fair treatment of domestic honey producers:
Provides additional tools to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to better enforce existing trade laws against Chinese honey that is transshipped through third-party countries, which evades applicable duties.
Also included is a Thune provision, which he introduced with U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), to require CBP to distribute all interest payments collected under the Byrd amendment to affected domestic producers, such as honey producers. The law, which applies to products imported before September 30, 2007, requires that certain import duties, including all interest, be distributed to the domestic industries found to have been injured by the imports under existing trade remedy laws. CBP has made a determination, contrary to the plain language of the law, that certain interest payments are not due to the impacted U.S. producers, thus greatly reducing the payments to these producers. The Thune-Grassley amendment will correct this CBP misinterpretation of law.