Boustany’s Bill to PROTECT Louisiana Seafood Passes House

 
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June 15, 2015
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By The Advertiser

Congressman Charles W. Boustany, R-South Louisiana,, supported passage of his bill, the PROTECT Act, which was included within H.R. 1907, the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act.

The PROTECT Act provides U.S. Customs and Border Protection increased cooperation and accountability tools to stop trade evasion, a practice hurting American industries like seafood and agriculture. First introduced in 2012 with Representative Cedric Richmondm D-Louisiana, Boustany and Richmond reintroduced the bill in the 113th Congress. Boustany included the legislation during the Ways & Means Committee's markup of H.R. 1907 on April 24, 2015.

According to his office, Boustany's PROTECT Act will:

  • Create a dedicated unit within U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to prevent and investigate trade evasion.
  • Create a CBP point of contact for private sector trade evasion allegations with the authority to direct evasion investigations and the duty to inform interested parties about the status of investigations.
  • Require CBP and Commerce to establish procedures to ensure maximum cooperation and communication in order to quickly, efficiently, and accurately investigate allegations of trade evasion.
  • Direct CBP to enter into agreements with foreign countries to enable proactive investigation overseas.
  • Require CBP to annually report to Congress on all of the agency's activities to combat trade evasion.

Nearly 90 percent of the seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported, Thomas Hymel, specialist for the LSU AgCenter, said

But the Food and Drug Administration only inspects about 2 percent of foreign seafood.

PROTECT Act, aims to curtail illegal trade practices such as a common scheme called "transshipment." Companies illegally ship to another party where the seafood is relabeled and imported to the U.S.

Similar legislation was passed through the United States Senate on May 14, 2015. Boustany said he has strongly advocated for his PROTECT Act over the Senate language because his bill does more to stop trade evasion at the border, rather than reactively pursuing offenders. A side-by-side comparison of Boustany's PROTECT Act and the Senate language can be found here. With today's House passage, the bill goes to a conference committee between the House and Senate to work out differences between the two bills, the congressman's office said.

"Help can't come soon enough for the Louisiana seafood industry, which is being hammered by illegal foreign imports that distort our markets and make it harder to sell this product produced right here in America," Boustany said in a statement after the House passage.

"The PROTECT Act provides tools for the federal government, legitimate importers and distributors, and trade-affected domestic industries to prevent and combat fraud at our border, not after the fact. I'll continue fighting for Louisiana seafood and Louisiana jobs by making sure the PROTECT Act becomes law."