On February 24, 2016, President Obama signed the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, H.R. 644 (Customs Reauthorization Bill), into law.

The law, which we summarized in a prior alert, contains the most far reaching set of changes since the Customs Modernization (MOD) Act, including significant changes to the operations and programs of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), new provisions for combating evasion of the antidumping (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) laws, and the inclusion of brand new measures to protect intellectual property rights (IPR).

CBP officials have indicated the agency will be busy developing and implementing regulations for the law. Some key dates laid out in the law include:

Section 901 – de minimis level:

Amends 19 U.S.C. § 1321(a)(2)(C) to raise the de minimis threshold from $200 to $800. This amendment shall apply to merchandise imported or withdrawn from the warehouse for consumption on or after March 10, 2016.

Section 304 – enforcing copyrights while application pending: 

Calls for a process for the enforcement of copyrights for which the owner has submitted an application for registration with the U.S. Copyright Office to the same extent and in the same manner as if the copyright were registered with the Copyright Office. These steps are to take effect by August 2016.

Section 421 – key AD/CVD enforcement changes:

Grants the Department of Commerce the authority to administratively investigate AD/CVD evasion and orders CBP to collect or preserve for collection AD/CVD duties owed on evading imports. These amendments are effective August 2016. Regulations to put the changes into effect are also called for by August 2016.

Section 303 – IPR enforcement – circumvention devices:

  • Section 303(a) expands CBP’s seizure and forfeiture authority to explicitly include unlawful circumvention devices, as defined under 17 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(2) or (b)(1); and
  • Section 303(b) directs CBP to prescribe regulations implementing this process by February 2017.

Section 116 – importer of record program a/k/a “known importer” program:

  • Section 116(b) requires the Commissioner to submit a report to Congress no later than August 2016 containing recommendations for determining the most timely and effective way to require foreign nationals to provide customs brokers with appropriate and accurate information (comparable to that which is required of United States nationals concerning the identity, address and other related information), and for establishing a system for customs brokers to review information maintained by relevant Federal agencies for purposes of verifying the identities of importers, including nonresident importers, seeking to import merchandise into the United States.

As with all landmark legislation, the regulatory process is where the details will be provided. Therefore, it is important to keep abreast of future developments, and Arent Fox will be following every step taken by CBP.

While regulations may not be issued immediately, importers may still feel the effects of this law sooner rather than later. In fact, we have heard of CBP taking steps to increase enforcement of AD/CVD and IPR provisions in anticipation of the passage of the law using existing processes. Importers are likely to see the effects of CBP enforcement under current processes.