Earlier this month, Senate Finance Committee leaders Max Baucus (D-MT) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced a bill to reorganize certain departments within U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and to prioritize the agency’s enforcement of intellectual property and import safety issues. S. 1631, the Customs Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2009, would establish CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) permanently within the Department of Homeland Security, and would create a new Office of Trade to assume the duties currently undertaken by CBP’s Office of International Affairs.

The Act would also place increased priority on commercial enforcement through the creation of National Targeting and Analysis Groups, or NTAGS. These groups would be responsible for monitoring import trends in an effort to target imports that violate U.S. Customs and Trade law. Particular focus will be placed on intellectual property and import safety violations, as well as agriculture, textile & apparel, general revenue, and antidumping & countervailing duty enforcement. The bill calls for new strategic plans for intellectual property and import safety enforcement, and for the training of personnel dedicated to intellectual property issues.

In the area of Trade Facilitation, the bill calls for the expansion of the agency-trade cooperative efforts established under the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism Program (C-TPAT). The bill directs CBP to continue to develop trade benefits for C-TPAT members, and to additionally establish a Customs Facilitation Partnership Program that, like C-TPAT, would provide benefits to qualifying importers.

Finally, the bill contains several provisions meant to simplify duty drawback claims. Most importantly, the bill would permit drawback to be claimed on merchandise that, as imported and exported, had the same eight digit Harmonized Tariff Schedule classification. Current duty drawback law requires imported and exported goods to be “of the same kind or quality,” or “commercially interchangeable”—a fairly subjective test. The use of the objective eight digit test would substantially reduce administrative burdens on claimants.

The full text of S. 1631 may be found at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:S.1631:.