NCBFAA Gives Legislative Update in Preparation for Upcoming GAC


NCBFAA advocates Jon Kent and Charles Riley gave an excellent legislative update on the state of trade in politics in preparation for our upcoming Annual Government Affairs Conference (September 10-12 in Washington DC- register here). For those members unable to attend, the recording can be accessed on our website.


Charles Riley kicked off the webinar with an overview of how to lean-in to grassroots advocacy. It starts with getting involved with your local association, and getting to know the local players so you can help influence local issues or national issues at your local port. Then, we’d love to have you join the NCBFAA Legislative Committee to both make your voice heard and also help strengthen the voice of the industry on the national level within both CBP and the PGAs.


Finally, in today’s globalized world, the impact of advocacy at the WCO, WTO and other multinational and international platforms cannot be over-stated. We truly live in one interconnected world where one country’s actions can touch almost every other country on earth through trade. NCBFAA has really engaged in international trade politics at the WCO in the past year or so and will continue to move into that space as time goes on.


Jon Kent then took over for the overview of the current political landscape. He noted that we are still trying to understand this administration’s strategic position on trade. Somewhat unusually, this President’s cabinet has varied and individually deeply-held opinions about trade before coming to Washington. While we originally thought our focus for trade policy should be on the National Trade Council, we are finding trade much less centralized than residing in the Council.


The Administration’s trade policy still is in flux and continuing to get developed as time goes on. There have been a number of Executive Orders on trade in the first months of the administration, with much of the focus so far on imports. It is important to note that as the conversation turns more toward export-focused policy, and as we engage in negotiations with other countries, there will need to be give-and-take on exports. We are unsure of what concessions we will be willing to make. In addition to the Administration’s developing trade policy, Congress has taken a much less deferential role on trade than it has in the past. Currently in the legislature, trade is based on raw politics and Congress is demanding a more substantial role.


The webinar then moved to other substantive Congressional topics including the Border Adjustment Tax. The BAT has not gained much traction and we continue to wait for policy statements on the MTB and GSP. We’ll be looking for those two bills to emerge toward the end of the year. Jon gave an excellent overview of where we are with China, highlighting that there are domestic, economic, political and military issues currently at play in our relationship with China.


We also had an in-depth discussion on NAFTA and the renegotiation, termed “modernization”. The NAFTA renegotiation may end up being more impactful for the brokerage and forwarding community than we may originally have thought. Drawback will continue to be a focus for us, as we advocate for the restrictions to be removed. The de minimis issue, specifically the great disparity between the US’ $800 de minimis level and the much lower levels of both Canada and Mexico with the latter showing no movement in sight may very well consume a lot of political capital in the upcoming negotiations. The dates of note for the NAFTA are:


  • May 17- The Administration officially notified Congress of plans to renegotiate NAFTA;
  • July 17- The Administration will submit detailed negotiation objectives to Congress; and
  • August 17- the earliest date that the actual negotiations can begin.


The target date for completing negotiations remains the end of the year, as Mexico and the US will go into potentially contentious elections during 2018.


So, what can you do?


In addition to attending the upcoming GAC, our NCBFAA members need to keep up the advocacy on NAFTA and all the issues of importance to your industry.


Visit with your local, state and national representatives at home in your district so that, when you make your appointments here in Washington, they are warm calls.


Offer support for candidates that you believe in and that believe in free trade.


Support the NCBFAA PAC so that we can elect pro-trade candidates.


And register now for the upcoming Government Affairs Conference held in Washington September 10-12, 2017.


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