On May 11, 2016, the Senate Finance Committee (led by Chairman Hatch (R-Utah) and Ranking Member Wyden (D-Oregon) held an oversight hearing with respect to the trade enforcement activities undertaken by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). CBP Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske testified about the agency’s plans to increase its trade enforcement activities following enactment of the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 (the Act) on February 24, 2016. The Act empowers CBP to increase enforcement in several critical areas, most prominently (1) the evasion of antidumping and countervailing duties (AD/CVD), and (2) the importation of goods produced with slave or forced labor.

Commissioner Kerlikowske explained that CBP is taking a more “aggressive and assertive” approach to trade enforcement and will issue an interim final regulation for implementing the Act’s AD/CVD duty evasion provisions before the statutory deadline, which is August 22, 2016 or 180 days after enactment. The CBP Commissioner further explained that monitoring steel imports subject to AD/CVDs is a top priority to identify duty-evasion claims.

Commissioner Kerlikowske specifically testified that CBP will enhance its trade enforcement efforts through a number of key steps, including:

  • Establishing a Trade Enforcement Task Force to focus on preventing imports of products using forced labor and the enforcement of AD/CVD laws and duties.
  • Establishing a Trade Remedy Law Enforcement Division to enforce AD/CVD laws and duties and to improve transparency with information that could be used to locate and prosecute violators. The Division will be led by a Director and a dedicated National Targeting and Analysis Group.
  • Explaining that, with respect to allegations that imports have been produced using forced labor, CBP will self-initiate investigations in order to accelerate the process and has added 24 employees to its task force.
    • CBP also plans to hire an additional nine people to serve as foreign attachés to investigate claims of forced labor.
    • Commissioner Kerlikowske also highlighted the critical role of information provided by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in foreign countries, as they are “incredibly knowledgeable” about forced-labor production.
  • Promulgating new regulations, including:
    • Potential violations of forced labor laws.
    • Intellectual property rights (IPR) information sharing with rights holders.
    • Procedures for investigating claims of AD/CVD order and timeline evasion.
    • Allowing donations of certain equipment, training, and other support services from the private sector for enforcing IPR.
    • Setting minimum standards for brokers and importers regarding importer identity verification.