Policy Blog: Senate Passes Customs Authorization Bill

By Rich Harper February 16, 2016

The Senate approved legislation last week that will impact how U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilitates the flow of outdoor products and other goods to consumers in the U.S. and around the world. The bill will give CBP new tools to protect domestic manufacturers from illegal shipments by foreign competitors and also makes technical fixes to new tariff lines for “recreational performance outerwear.” The House passed this legislation in December and it will now go to President Obama for his signature.

“Outdoor Industry Association applauds passage of the Customs Authorization Bill,” said Rich Harper, OIA’s Manager of International Trade. “This critical piece of legislation will help outdoor companies bring their innovative products to outdoor enthusiasts in the U.S. and around the world and ensure our trade laws are enforced, protecting U.S. brand and Made in U.S.A. products. In addition, it makes much needed fixes to the new tariff lines for recreational performance outerwear that sets the stage for tariff relief. Finally, we welcome the commitment on a Senate vote on the Marketplace Fairness Act, legislation that will level the playing field for brick and mortar outdoor retailers.”

Consideration of the Customs bill in the Senate had been delayed due to objections over the inclusion of the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act (PITFA) legislation that would make permanent a ban on imposing taxes on access to the internet. Proponents of the Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA) – a bill that would authorize retailers to collect sales taxes on remote sales – argued that PITFA and MFA should be considered together.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made a commitment that the Senate would consider MFA this year, leading to the Senate vote on the Customs bill.

In addition to authorizing the operations of U.S. Customs and facilitating the free flow of goods across U.S. borders, the bill contains provisions to enhance the ability of the U.S. to enforce U.S. trade laws and trade agreements through anti-dumping and countervailing duties, among others. The bill contains two provisions of interests to the outdoor industry:

  • Technical fixes to the new tariff classifications or “breakouts” within the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) for recreational performance outerwear enacted earlier this year.
  • Language calling for a process to reform how Congress considers Miscellaneous Tariff Bills (MTBs) that suspend tariffs on products not produced domestically.

The recreational performance outerwear breakouts – a key portion of OIA’s signature trade initiative, the U.S. OUTDOOR Act – will help the industry better track imports and sets the stage for tariff elimination. MTB’s have saved outdoor companies more than $30 million, leading to more jobs, more innovation and lower retail costs for outdoor enthusiasts. OIA looks forward to Congress completing work on a new process in 2016.