February 11, 2016

Congress Puts America on Path Toward 21st Century Borders

This article was originally published in Above the Fold on February 11, 2016.

As the United States forges ahead on new trade deals across both the Atlantic and Pacific, it’s critical that we grease the wheels of trade on our borders – and on that front, lawmakers just took an important step in the right direction.

The Senate on Thursday approved legislation that will update some of our country’s antiquated customs rules that cause bottlenecks and slow the inflow and outflow of goods across the U.S.’s borders. Known as the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, the bill was approved by the House back in December and now heads to the White House.

Shortly after the vote in the Senate, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Bruce Josten commended legislators in both chambers “for working together to create legislation that will enable U.S. businesses to be more competitive globally by unleashing the potential for small and medium-sized businesses to access foreign markets.”

“By removing unnecessary chokepoints to imports and exports, this bill calls for common sense steps that will improve our nation’s national security while better facilitating legitimate trade,” Josten said in a statement. He added that the bill “will help set the global standard for how trade and travel should move across modern borders.”

But the benefits don’t end there. By providing much-needed legal authority and resources to federal customs enforcement and border protection authorities, the legislation would also help better protect U.S. companies and innovators in intellectual property-intensive sectors, Josten explained. In an earlier key vote letter on the bill, he pointed out that “more than 40 million American jobs and 62 percent of U.S. exports depend on” such industries.

This latest congressional action comes as the U.S. pushes forward on two monumental new trade deals, beginning with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was signed earlier this month. Meanwhile, negotiators are in talks to strike a similar agreement with our trading partners across the Atlantic, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

For now, it’s important that President Obama not waste any time signing this customs legislation, so that America’s entrepreneurs, manufacturers and exporters don’t have to wait on those trade agreements to continue expanding into new markets abroad.

As Josten concluded in the key vote letter: “This legislation would facilitate trade, improve customs enforcement, advance government agency cooperation, enhance enforcement of intellectual property rights, and set the global standard for border management.”

J.D. Harrison is the senior director for strategic communications at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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