Fashion Intel & Analysis

A Senate Finance Committee hearing today on S. 1631, the Customs Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2009, brought forward industry representatives who urged the committee to broaden the bill’s proposed new Customs Facilitation Partnership Program to “include tangible benefits for importers found to have the best handle on trade compliance.”  In particular, the Committee was told that the bill offers an opportunity to reward companies involved in CBP partnership programs with “true account management . . . where most information is submitted to Customs on a periodic basis rather than transaction by transaction.” 

 

            S. 1631, which would require the creation of new high-level positions at CBP dedicated to trade facilitation and enforcement, is an attempt to better balance CBP’s trade mission with its security mission.  In his opening statement, Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) stated, “In 2002, CBP got a new job. It still has to fulfill its traditional trade mission. But in addition, CBP must also secure our nation’s borders. These two missions are not mutually exclusive. CBP must do a better job of balancing them.”

 

            The committee heard from Jerry Cook of Hanesbrand, Rick Cotton of NBC Universal, Ted Sherman of Target, and Mary Ann Comstock of UPS, all of whom endorsed the bill and agreed that it would help reduce the costs and time associated with trade compliance.

 

            Cotton suggested that the bill should be changed to IP protection enforcement officers at all high-volume ports, not just the 10 busiest 10 U.S. ports, and provide more details (such as performance metrics) that describe the operation of a strategic plan on IPR enforcement. The bill also requires CBP to create a confidential list of importers who have a history of trying to import counterfeit goods, but in response to a question from Ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Comstock said she would prefer language that places importers on this list only when they knowingly import counterfeit goods.

 

            Baucus, Grassley and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) attended the hearing, but none offered any indication about when the committee might try to markup S. 1631. Committee staff has said a markup of the bill could take place in November, but nothing is scheduled. The committee is accepting public comments on the bill over the next two weeks.

 

On October 16, 2009, the White House announced that Haiti has met the eligibility criteria necessary to continue eligibility for duty-free preferences under HOPE II.  This means that all HOPE II benefits remain available for companies sourcing textiles and apparel in Haiti.  The President certified that Haiti established an independent labor ombudsman's office and selected the ombudsman; established a Technical Assistance Improvement and Compliance Needs Assessment and Remediation (TAICNAR) Program; and implemented an electronic visa system that also acts as a registry of Haitian producers with participation in TAICNAR a requirement to use the visa system.    

 

In the press release issued by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, USTR Ron Kirk says "The HOPE II Act's duty-free access to the U.S. market and enhanced monitoring of labor conditions, along with President Clinton's new role as UN special envoy, means that brands and retailers will be more willing to consider doing business there." 

 

DON’T FORGET TO VOTE ON THE COTTON PROGRAM REFERENDUM

 

Importers of Cotton Apparel have a real opportunity to defeat this referendum – please vote.  You can download the ballot from http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/ams.search.do?q=ballot&x=9&y=14.

 

Remember – importers must include a copy of the Form 7501 for Calendar Year 2008 which shows payment of the cotton fee or assessment.  Ballots must be mail by no later than November 10 to the address at the top of the ballot form.

 

 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection announces that the next meeting of the Advisory Committee onCommercial Operations of Customs and Border Protection (COAC).  The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, November 4 in Washington, D.C.   The agenda includes a discussion of 10 +2 and trade facilitation issues.

 

DON’T FORGET TO VOTE ON THE COTTON PROGRAM REFERENDUM

 

Importers of Cotton Apparel have a real opportunity to defeat this referendum – please vote.  You can download the ballot from http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/ams.search.do?q=ballot&x=9&y=14.

 

Remember – importers must include a copy of the Form 7501 for Calendar Year 2008 which shows payment of the cotton fee or assessment.  Ballots must be mail by no later than November 10 to the address at the top of the ballot form.

On October 15, the U.S. Treasury Department released the Semi-Annual Report to Congress on International Economic and Exchange Rate Policies.  The Obama Administration declined to name China as a country that is manipulating its currency to improve its trading competitiveness. Treasury does say it has “serious concerns” about Chinese exchange rate policies.   But they find that while the renminbi is still undervalued, China is working with the U.S. through the Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) and the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT).  

 

While several Congressional Democrats called for tougher action to force China to change its exchange rate policies, the response was not as strident as in past years.   The relatively muted response suggests that the Obama Administration is still taking a very careful approach in the economic relationship with China following the September decision to impose penalty duties on imports of Chinese tires in the first 421 case  

 

The Administration also announced the next meeting of the JCCT, which was created as a forum to address trade and investment issues, is scheduled for October 28 and 29 in Hangzhou, China.  The JCCT will be chaired by the U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and Chinese Vice Premier Wan Qishan. 

            The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on its customs reauthorization bill, the Customs Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2009 (S. 1631), on October 20. Among other things, the bill seeks to refocus the attention of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on trade facilitation and funds efforts to implement the Automated Customs Environment. But the bill would also allow the Importer Security Filing (the 10+2 data) to be used for commercial enforcement purposes, a proposal that is raising considerable concerns.

 

Testifying at the hearing will be Jerry Cook of Hanesbrand, Rick Cotton of NBC Universal, Ted Sherman of Target, and Mary Ann Comstock of UPS.