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Obama Signs Customs Bill Into Law

The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, better known as the customs bill, officially became a law Wednesday when President Obama signed it.

In short, the bill is supposed to help the U.S. enforce its trade agreements.

“Trade is a major topic of debate, here in the United States and around the world,” President Obama said in a White House video of the signing. “One area where there should be no debate is that once we’ve set up trade rules, people have to abide by them.”

The new law will help the U.S. enforce its trade agreements by providing more resources to do so, and streamlining the process for bringing action against a trading partner for illegally dumping goods or for being involved in countervailing duties. It also prohibits the import of any products made with child or forced labor.

“It makes sure that these other countries are playing by the rules,” the president explained, adding that the law will also give the U.S. “new tools to deal with currency devaluations that are designed to undercut U.S. goods, U.S. exports and our balance of trade.”

For apparel and footwear trade specifically, the bill should lower the cost of doing business.

The law will raise the de minimis threshold allowing companies to import a good for up to $800, rather than the previous $200 limit, without paying duties. It would also fix tariff classifications for certain footwear and outerwear items and provide new protections for intellectual property.

Pleased with the signing of the bill, the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA), said, “The signing of The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act marks approval and passage of the fourth of four bipartisan trade bills approved by Congress over the last year that provide critical support and opportunities for U.S. companies, U.S. workers, U.S. consumers and the U.S. economy.”

President Obama himself was pleased, admitting that the bill was a “hard piece of business” but that it’s “an important milestone in our trade agenda.”

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Other parties will be less pleased with the bill’s passing, however.

The Chicago Tribune ran a community contribution that said the bill “cracks down on foreign companies cheating Americans by illegally avoiding customs duties,” and some states won’t be happy about the extension of the ban on taxing Internet access because they want one way or another to tax Internet use.

Opinions aside, President Obama isn’t taking the country’s trade agreements lightly.

“We have ramped up enforcement of our trade laws to protect American workers and American businesses like never before,” the president said at the signing. “We can’t have other countries cheating, we can’t have other countries engaging in practices that disadvantage American workers and American businesses.”