Customs Modernization Bill Contains Several Thune Provisions
“I’m glad we were able to break the logjam in the Senate and move this update of our nation’s customs laws one step closer to the president’s desk.”
WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), member of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over tax and trade legislation, issued the following statement on the Senate’s passage of H.R. 644, the customs modernization bill, which updates customs laws and strengthens enforcement of trade laws:
“I’m glad we were able to break the logjam in the Senate and move this update of our nation’s customs laws one step closer to the president’s desk,” said Thune. “As the Senate moves forward on bipartisan legislation to renew trade promotion authority, we must also ensure that our trading partners play by the rules. This legislation strengthens our laws to make sure that unfair trade practices which have harmed American agriculture producers, such as honey producers, are better identified and eliminated, ensuring that free and fair trade is the norm.”
South Dakota is the third largest honey producing state in the nation, producing 15 million pounds of honey each year. Richard Adee, owner and operator of Adee Honey Farms in Bruce, South Dakota, was encouraged by the Senate’s action on the customs bill and applauded Thune’s effort:
“The honey industry, nationwide, is very grateful for Senator Thune’s action to help save the beekeeping industry from the illegal transshipping of Chinese honey on which duties are owed, through third world countries with no duties,” said Adee. “Also we certainly appreciate his amendment prohibiting CBP from deducting interest on import duties owed to beekeepers. This again, not only helps South Dakota beekeepers who were injured by dumped imports but beekeepers nationwide. Senator Thune’s action is not only appreciated by beekeepers but also by growers of crops dependent on a healthy, viable bee industry for their pollination needs.”
The following Thune provisions were included in H.R. 644:
- Provisions to Reduce Trade Barriers for Low-Value Items: This legislation includes two provisions authored by Senator Thune to improve customs procedures for small sellers, such as small business owners using the Internet to sell abroad. Specifically, a Thune provision was included in 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, S. 489, with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)—would raise the exemption level to $800.
The bill also includes a Thune provision, added to the bill during Finance Committee consideration, 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.
- Provisions to Ensure Fair Treatment of Domestic Honey Producers: This legislation also includes two provisions that will benefit South Dakota’s honey producers. The first provision, championed by Thune, will 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. The problem of transshipment of Chinese honey, sometimes referred to as “honey laundering,” was discussed in detail at a Finance Trade Subcommittee hearing in the 112th Congress that Senator Thune co-chaired as ranking member of the subcommittee.
Additionally, the bill includes a Thune provision, adopted during Finance Committee consideration, 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 provision will correct this CBP misinterpretation of law, ensuring that South Dakota’s honey producers – and other affected producers – receive the relief to which they are entitled.