Boost Customs to protect textiles

December 7, 2013

For decades, North Carolina’s 8th District thrived as the heart of the textile industry, bringing economic prosperity and reliable jobs to our communities. As evidenced by the closed textile mills and abandoned plants, the textile industry has been diminished by bad trade negotiations and lax enforcement of our trade laws.

As your representative, I am deeply invested in ways to ensure that our textile industry and businesses here at home can recover and remain competitive at home and abroad. With nearly 500,000 American jobs dependent on our domestic trade and apparel industry, it is necessary that we uphold U.S. trade policy and our trade agreements and obligations. As you know, my top priority is getting folks back to work and bringing jobs home. While the recent national unemployment report is promising, it is not enough. We must do all that we can to ensure an economic friendly environment that allows our businesses to prosper, grow, and create more reliable jobs.

Just recently, I was proud to introduce the Textile Enforcement and Security Act of 2013 with Rep. Tom Graves, a Republican from Georgia, and 23 of our House colleagues. This bipartisan bill will provide the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice with the tools necessary to enforce customs and trade laws relating to textile and apparels, strengthening America’s textile industry and protecting American workers.

The livelihood of the textile industry relies heavily on the ability of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to target and eliminate illegal activity, including fraudulent textile and apparel goods moving across our borders. Fraud has become increasingly prevalent in the textile and apparel industry, largely in the CAFTA and NAFTA regions. With lax enforcement of our trade laws, trade violators like China are able to sneak illegal goods into the United States, flooding our markets with counterfeit goods and harming our consumers and businesses.

We need to modernize U.S. Customs and Border Protection and equip it with the training and resources required to stop illegal activity and collect more duties and penalties. While we live in a complex 21st century economy that demands global trade, we must ensure that we are enforcing our laws already on the books to facilitate fair, legal trade without undue stress from trade violators.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is already the second largest revenue generator for the federal government. By investing training and authority in it, we will allow U.S. Customs and Border Protection to generate more revenue through fines and penalties on known trade violators. The revenue from these fines and penalties collected will be used to pay for expenses directly related to customs enforcement and training. This common-sense bill will giveU.S. Customs and Border Protection and other stakeholders the necessary resources, tools and authority to strongly enforce our trade laws and find those bad actors who circumvent U.S. trade policy. It will protect our U.S. manufacturers and guarantee that they can compete in the global marketplace.

Specifically, this bill will:

— Increase the number of U.S. Customs and Border Protection specialists in the Textile and Trade Agreements Division and at over a dozen U.S. ports.

— Clarify that U.S. Customs and Border Protection has the authority to seize fraudulent textile and apparel goods imported under Trade Preference Area and Free Trade Agreement rules.

— Establish centralized databases so U.S. Customs and Border Protection can more effectively and efficiently identify high risk importers and supply chains.

— Establish an Electronic Verification Program to track yarn and fabric inputs in free trade agreements.

— Require the U.S. government to publish names of companies that intentionally violate the rules of textile and apparel trade agreements.

I am proud to introduce with my House colleagues this bipartisan, bicameral bill that will provide much-needed protections for our textile industry. I will continue to fight to protect vital North Carolina businesses and keep American textiles prosperous and successful for years to come.

Richard Hudson, a Concord Republican, represents the 8th District in the U.S. House, which includes most of Robeson County.