U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), member of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over tax and trade legislation, praised the committee’s bipartisan passage of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). The legislation would help finalize trade deals that remove barriers facing U.S. exports, allowing American goods to compete on a level playing field. Last night, the Finance Committee passed The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (S. 995) and a customs reauthorization bill including provisions authored by Thune, among other trade bills.
“With 96 percent of the world’s consumers outside the borders of the United States, free and fair trade is essential to economic growth,” said Thune. “This important legislation will help put the United States in the strongest possible position when negotiating trade agreements by allowing Congress to set guidelines for trade negotiations and outlines the priorities the administration must follow. Since 2009, increasing exports have accounted for more than 1.6 million new jobs in the United States. In South Dakota alone, exports support more than 15,000 jobs in industries ranging from farming and ranching to machinery and electronics. The sooner Congress renews TPA, the sooner American workers and job creators can start experiencing the benefits.”
Among other provisions, the TPA legislation directs America’s trade negotiators to remove barriers to the export of America’s farm products, including those products currently subject to non-tariff barriers. Specifically, the bill will help to remove non-science based regulatory restrictions abroad to U.S. crops that use biotechnology. Trade is especially important to South Dakota’s agriculture industry. Export markets account for 30 percent of the sales of U.S. agricultural products. For South Dakota, that represents $3.8 billion worth of annual agriculture exports creating jobs, boosting farm income, and growing South Dakota’s economy.
The legislation also includes provisions updating U.S. trade policy for the modern era by addressing foreign barriers to digital trade, such as restrictions on data flows across borders. Increasingly the Internet is an important tool for small businesses looking to export their goods, and these provisions have been championed by Thune in his roles as member of the Finance Committee and as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
The following Thune provisions were included in the chairman’s modified mark to the customs reauthorization bill:
- Provision to Reduce Trade Barriers for Low-Value Items: A Thune provision was included to the bill to reduce current trade barriers and allow for 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—taken from his legislation with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) S. 489—would raise the exemption level to $800. The chairman’s modified mark also adopted a Thune amendment to express a Sense of Congress encouraging 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.
- Provision to Ensure Fair Treatment of Domestic Honey Producers: The bill includes a provision, championed by Thune, to provide additional tools to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to better enforce existing trade laws against Chinese honey that is transshipped through third countries, thus evading applicable duties. Additionally, the chairman’s modified mark adopted a Thune amendment requiring 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 amendment will correct this CBP misinterpretation of law.