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Legislative Update: Look Ahead to 2012

Sandler Travis & Rosenberg PA / www.strtrade.com

 

 

Lawmakers left Washington last week for a month-long holiday recess having done little in recent weeks to advance trade or customs legislation. That could change in 2012, however, now that many of the more high-profile issues have been addressed.

Congress is likely to continue next year its search for ways to foster economic recovery, and there are several trade-related bills that could be enlisted in that effort. One is a bill to reform the way the U.S. taxes corporate income earned overseas, a discussion draft of which was circulated in late October. Another possibility is a measure to combat the evasion of antidumping and countervailing duties, although an actual bill has yet to be introduced and prospects could be dimming in light of recent figures from U.S. Customs and Border Protection showing that the amount of uncollected AD/CV duties (the majority of which are often attributed to evasion) has declined significantly for two straight years. A bill with a potentially brighter outlook is the Retailers and Entertainers Lacey Implementation and Enforcement Fairness (RELIEF) Act, which seeks to ameliorate some of the ill effects of the Lacey Act amendments of 2008 concerning imports of goods made with plants or plant products.

With respect to specific trade partners, China and Russia could figure prominently in the congressional trade agenda for 2012. The Senate approved Oct. 11 legislation to address the alleged undervaluation of China’s currency, although little has happened since to suggest that supporters would be able to advance the bill in the House, where Republican leaders have all but said they will not bring it up. However, the continuing trade deficit with China and the United States’ ongoing economic struggles mean that congressional action on some sort of China legislation cannot be ruled out. In the meantime lawmakers will be pushed to approve legislation repealing the Jackson-Vanik amendment with respect to Russia now that it has officially been invited to join the World Trade Organization. A repeal would allow the president to grant permanent normal trade relations status to goods imported from Russia and is necessary for U.S. companies to take advantage of all the concessions Russia will make as part of its WTO accession.

Other topics that could affect international traders and may be taken up in Congress next year include customs reauthorization , regulatory reform and online piracy.

Finally, below is a list of additional trade-related bills that have been introduced recently. The texts of these bills are or will be shortly available on the Library of Congress’ Web site.

  • S. 2011 – to empower ports to regulate clean truck programs
  • S. 2012 – to require that labels on children's sleepwear that indicate the sleepwear is flame resistant also include the chemical name of the flame retardant used
  • S. 2007 – to amend the African Growth and Opportunity Act to extend the third-country fabric rule and add South Sudan to the list of countries eligible for designation
  • S. 1995 – to enhance Food and Drug Administration oversight of medical device recalls and provide for the conditional clearance of certain medical devices
  • S. 1980 – to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing through port state measures
  • S. 1964 – to exempt from the harbor maintenance tax certain commercial cargo loaded or unloaded at United States ports in the Great Lakes Saint Lawrence Seaway System
  • S. 1952 – to improve hazardous materials transportation safety
  • S. 1946 – to require foreign manufacturers of products imported into the United States to establish registered agents in the United States who are authorized to accept service of process against such manufacturers
  • H.R. 3607 – to establish a program to improve freight mobility in the United States and establish the National Freight Mobility Infrastructure Fund
  • H.R. 3588 – to require the proposal for debarment from contracting with the federal government of persons violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977

 


 

 

CBP Integrated Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands 2011 Review

U.S. Customs & Border Protection / www.cbp.gov

 

 

San Juan, P.R.— U.S. Customs and Border Protection components in the Caribbean; the San Juan Field Office, the Ramey Border Patrol Sector and the Caribbean Air and Marine Branch, joined this week in the national announcement which released year-end data on fiscal year (FY) 2011 border enforcement and management efforts, highlighting trends that reflect the Administration’s ongoing commitment to securing the border and facilitating legitimate trade and travel.

The success is a reflection of the continued efforts with other Federal, State and Local law enforcement within the Caribbean to generate reductions in illicit activity throughout the area.

“In 2011, CBP made important contributions to our nation’s homeland security and economic vitality,” said CBP Commissioner Alan D. Bersin. “These numbers illustrate the investments made by CBP to improve border security, increase efficiencies and facilitate the flow of legal travel and trade through our nation’s borders and land ports of entry.”

In Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, CBP officers and agents seized over 19,000 pounds of narcotics with an estimated street value of approximately $154 million, and seized approximately $7.3 million in unreported currency in FY 2011.

The Caribbean Air and Marine Branch played a major role in the determent of illegal activity throughout our coasts, through the coordinated use of integrated air and marine forces to detect, interdict and prevent the unlawful movement of people, illegal drugs and other contraband in the area. Approximately 10,250 pounds of narcotics and $2.1 million in currency was seized by CAMB this fiscal year.

Ramey Border Patrol agents patrol coastal areas in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and work to secure a safer environment as they prevent, deter, and arrest illegal aliens and narcotics that try to enter our area. During FY 2011, Ramey agents apprehended 642 undocumented aliens between the ports of entry; prosecuting 154 for violating federal immigration law based on illegal reentry. This represents a 61% increase from FY 2010. Regarding drug seizures, over 2,180 pounds of narcotics were seized by Border Patrol agents during FY 2011.

CBP Officers and Agriculture Specialists, on the other hand, work to protect our borders at the ports of entry while facilitating legitimate trade and travel. CBP processed approximately 4.8 million travelers and 109,085 containers through our ports of entry during FY2011.

During this time, CBP officers arrested 345 people wanted for crimes, including murder, rape, assault, and robbery and denied entry to more than 2,937 people attempting to enter the U.S. through an air or sea port of entry in our area.

CBP Agriculture Specialists seized more than 17,490 prohibited plant materials, meat, and animal by products and intercepted nearly 4,040 pests. Approximately 20 insects intercepted at our ports this year have been determined to be “first time in port/nationwide and/or new pests”.

There were also important interceptions as for example, the interception of Quail Eggs, Bird Feathers and Pilot Whale Meat, referred for action to the Fish and Wild Life Administration.

Also this fiscal year, CBP in the San Juan Field Office processed nearly $40.24 Billion in trade, an increase of 15.52% from FY 2010 to FY 2011. CBP officers conducted more than 83 seizures of trade violations in general including, but not limited to Intellectual Property Rights, Health and Safety Commission, Consumer Product Safety Commission, Department of Transportation, and Environmental Protection Agency violations, with a domestic value of approximately $3.9 million.

At the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport this year, approximately 614 new travelers requested and were enrolled in the agency’s Trusted Traveler Programs (Global Entry) designed to expedite screening for low-risk travelers and commerce through rigorous, recurrent background checks. At the San Juan Office of Field Operations, over 400 small vessel owners enrolled in the Small Vessel Reporting System (SVRS), a program that expedites processing of small vessels through advance screening. The Port of San Juan is within the 5 top port locations for SVRS requests in the nation.

During the past fiscal year, CBP also increased its collaboration with federal, state, local, and international partners to combat individuals and criminal organizations that pose a threat to our communities. This collaboration results in interventions at and beyond our borders. Through the Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG), the estimated flow of illegal migrants through the Mona Passage has registered a 90% decrease in a five year period of performance.

In FY 2011, DHS awarded $54.8 million in Operation Stonegarden grant funding to support state and local law enforcement efforts in border communities. In Puerto Rico, the municipalities of Aguadilla, Cabo Rojo, Lajas, Ponce, Yabucoa and Ceiba, have benefited from the program. Participating municipalities in Puerto Rico have their police force work in unison with Border Patrol agents fusing knowledge, experience, assets and jurisdictional authorities in an effort to deter illegal activities, develop actionable intelligence and help protect our coastal communities.

 


 

Check Your Home for These Winter Weather-Related Recalled Products

Consumer Product Safety Commission / www.cpsc.gov

 

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Winter weather has arrived in much of the United States. Play it safe by checking if your cold weather-related products have been previously recalled before you use them this season. It could save your life or that of your family.

Click the link below to see if you have any of these heating devices in your home:

http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml12/12065.html?tab=recalls

 


 

USDA Launches New Online Nutrition SuperTracker in Time for Those Healthy New Year Resolutions

New Web Tool Designed to Help Americans Make Healthy Food and Physical Activity Choices

U.S. Department of Agriculture / www.usda.gov

 

 

WASHINGTON, Dec. 22, 2011 – Just in time to help Americans keep their New Year's resolutions by making healthy food and physical activity choices, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today released USDA's new nutrition SuperTracker. The SuperTracker is a comprehensive, state-of-the-art resource available at ChooseMyPlate.gov designed to assist individuals as they make changes in their life to reduce their risk of chronic disease and maintain a healthy weight. Release of this new web tool comes as USDA highlights the second in a series of themed consumer messages supporting the MyPlate icon – Enjoy Your Food, But Eat Less – that USDA is promoting the next three months in conjunction with more than 5,000 organizations participating in the MyPlate Nutrition Communicators Network.

"Overcoming the health and nutrition challenges we face as a nation is critical and the SuperTracker provides consumers with an assortment of tools to do just that," said Vilsack. "This easy-to-use website will help Americans at all stages of life improve their overall health and well-being as they input dietary and physical activity choices into the tool. During the holiday season we are surrounded by good food and this is a perfect time to Enjoy Your Food, But Eat Less."

The SuperTracker is a visually appealing, comprehensive, state-of-the-art resource available at ChooseMyPlate.gov. It is designed to assist individuals as they make changes in their life to reduce their risk of chronic disease and maintain a healthy weight. Consumers can access this free, on-line tool at anytime and can choose a variety of features to support nutrition and physical activity goals. SuperTracker offers consumers the ability to:

  • Personalize recommendations for what and how much to eat and amount of physical activity.
  • Track foods and physical activity from an expanded database of foods and physical activities.
  • Customize features such as goal setting, virtual coaching, weight tracking and journaling.
  • Measure progress with comprehensive reports ranging from a simple meal summary to in-depth analysis of food groups and nutrient intake over time.
  • Operationalize the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines.
  • Support family and friends by adding their individual profiles.

The SuperTracker complements First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative and provides practical information to help individuals, health professionals, nutrition educators, and consumers build healthier diets. As Americans are experiencing epidemic rates of overweight and obesity, the online resources and tools available at ChooseMyPlate.gov can empower people to make healthier food and physical activity choices for themselves, their families, and their children.

Additional new consumer messages in the months to come will include Drink Water Instead of Sugary Drinks; Make at Least Half Your Grains Whole Grains; and Avoid Oversized Portions. USDA and its MyPlate Nutrition Communicators Network parters will find innovative ways to deliver the easy-to-adopt how-tos for these messages to empower consumers to make healthier food choices.

Originally identified in the Child Obesity Task Force report which noted that simple, actionable advice for consumers is needed, MyPlate replaced the MyPyramid image as the government's primary food group symbol as an easy-to-understand visual cue to help consumers adopt healthy eating habits consistent with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

ChooseMyPlate.gov provides practical information to individuals, health professionals, nutrition educators, and the food industry to help consumers build healthier diets with resources and tools for dietary assessment, nutrition education, and other user-friendly nutrition information. As Americans are experiencing epidemic rates of overweight and obesity, the online resources and tools can empower people to make healthier food choices for themselves, their families, and their children.

Other Associated Resources: Dietary Guidelines.gov; ChooseMyPlate.gov; LetsMove.gov

 


 

CBP Officers Seize Nearly $2.5M in Marijuana at the Pharr Port of Entry Cargo Facility

U.S. Customs & Border Protection / www.cbp.gov

 

 

Pharr, Texas – U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers on Friday seized more than a ton of marijuana at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge’s import lot.

On Dec. 23, CBP officers at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge encountered a maroon Freightliner tractor and utility reefer trailer at the CBP cargo facility. The conveyances were referred to secondary for further inspection. Examination by CBP officers in cargo secondary revealed 423 packages concealed within the trailer. CBP officers removed the packages from the trailer which had a total weight of 1,118 kilograms, or 2,464.76 pounds, of alleged marijuana.

The alleged marijuana from this seizure has an estimated street value of approximately $2,464,760. CBP officers seized the narcotics and the tractor-trailer.

“During this busy holiday season another large load of alleged marijuana has been stopped by our CBP officers. I applaud our officers for an outstanding job with the interception of these dangerous narcotics and for their service to our country’s borders,” said Sylvia Briones, acting port director for Hidalgo/Pharr/Anzalduas.

 


 

Double Happyness Travel, Inc., Declared an Imminent Hazard and Ordered to Immediately Cease All Operations

U.S. Department of Transportation / www.dot.gov

 

 

The Pennsylvania bus company violated hours-of-service regulations and drug and alcohol testing regulations

WASHINGTON, DC - The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has ordered Double Happyness Travel, Inc., of Huntingdon Valley, Pa., to immediately cease all intrastate and interstate passenger service declaring the carrier an “imminent hazard” to public safety. This order follows an extensive review of the company’s operations, which found multiple hours-of-service, vehicle maintenance, and controlled substance and alcohol testing violations.

“Safety is our highest priority,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “During this busy holiday travel season, we will remain vigilant in our efforts to protect bus passengers and all motorists from unsafe bus companies.”

Double Happyness Travel was immediately shut down after FMCSA safety investigators found the company failed to comply with hours-of-service, records of duty and driver qualification requirements. Double Happyness Travel provided service between New York City and Albany, N.Y.; Baltimore, Md.; and Wilmington, Del.

“FMCSA will continue to do everything within its current legal authority to remove unsafe bus operators like this one from our roadways,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro.

Before buying a ticket or hiring a bus company for group travel, consumers are encouraged to review the Department of Transportation’s "Think Safety: Every Trip, Every Time" pre-trip safety checklist. The list helps consumers review a bus company's safety record, safety rating and DOT’s operating authority. The checklist is available online at FMCSA's Passenger Bus Safety Web site: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety-security/pcs/Index.aspx. FMCSA encourages consumers to report any unsafe bus company, vehicle or driver to the agency through a toll free hotline 1-888-DOT-SAFT (1-888-368-7238) or FMCSA's National Consumer Complaint Database.

Over the past five years, FMCSA has doubled the number of bus inspections and comprehensive safety reviews of the nation's estimated 4,000 passenger bus companies. Roadside motorcoach inspections have jumped nearly 100 percent, from 12,991 in 2005 to 25,705 in 2010, while compliance reviews are up 128 percent, from 457 in 2005 to 1,042 in 2010. In addition, FMCSA has initiated a greater number of enforcement cases against unsafe passenger carriers under the current administration: from 36 in 2008 to 44 in 2010.

Additionally, over the last two years DOT has taken action to reduce distracted driving by drivers of commercial vehicles, including trucks and buses. In January 2010, FMCSA banned texting by commercial drivers, and in November 2011 the agency prohibited commercial drivers from reaching for, holding or dialing a cell phone while operating a commercial motor vehicle. Drivers who violate these restrictions would face federal civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense and revocation of their commercial driver's license (CDL) for multiple offenses. Additionally, states would suspend a driver's CDL after two or more violations of any state law against hand-held cell phone use.

 
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