As 2021 draws to a close, Congress still has a multitude of important issues to wrap up prior to year-end. The continuing resolution for fiscal year 2022 federal funding expires on December 3, the National Defense Authorization Act must be renewed, the Senate Majority Leader has expressed his intent to finalize the House-passed Build Back Better Act via reconciliation before the end of December, and the Treasury Secretary has predicted the federal debt ceiling will be breached around December 15. In the midst of this legislative pile-up, there are two pieces of legislation that directly impact the promotional products industry.
The Country Of Origin Labeling (COOL) Online Act requires online sellers to disclose the country of origin for any product sold over the internet. The bill, which passed the Senate as part of the larger Innovation and Competition Act (S. 1260), creates new liability for companies to not only post the product’s country of origin information but also to certify the accuracy of the information provided by product vendors. This could be highly problematic for importers, especially regarding apparel and other products that are popular in the promotional products industry, because sourcing countries are constantly changing and cannot always be identified at the time a consumer makes an online purchase.
PPAI has been collaborating with its trade coalition partners to explain how infeasible complying with this proposed requirement would be for small businesses that do not always have immediate access to sourcing information from their suppliers. Considering the COOL Online requirement was included in the bipartisan Senate-passed Innovation and Competition Act, the possibility is high it will pass the House and be signed into law soon. This means promotional products companies will be required to devote tremendous resources to upgrading and maintaining their databases in compliance with the new regulations.
Another important bill likely to see progress in the near future entails a series of bipartisan provisions created to update federal shipping law. The Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2021 (OSRA 2021) essentially creates a shippers’ bill of rights by shifting the balance of power from ocean carriers to entities that are shipping products. The bill empowers the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) to enhance its enforcement of U.S. laws that regulate shipping practices and implement new common-sense reforms to address long-standing issues in the maritime shipping industry.
There are several components of OSRA that have not been updated since 1998, and the landscape has shifted significantly in the past 20-plus years.
Some other provisions in the updated version of OSRA 2021 include:
Curtailing price-gouging for containers, and detention and demurrage charges
Requiring transport companies to ensure they have sufficient capacity when entering contracts
Shifting the burden to service providers to prove why a specific charge is needed or reasonable by mandating itemization of the charge
The OSRA 2021 update has 76 cosponsors in the House of Representatives, and it is important that all members of the House hear from their constituents about how critical the passage of this bill is to your businesses. Click here to contact your House representative and ask them to cosponsor H.R. 4996, the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2021. PPAI’s advocacy platform will determine who the appropriate legislator is and give participants the option of sending an editable, pre-written form letter and calling their representative to voice their support of H.R. 4996.
Other trade-related legislation that is on the schedule for Congress at the end of the year provides for renewing the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB) and the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), which are two important tariff exclusion programs that PPAI has long worked with coalition partners to support. PPAI is also on the record opposing the Section 301 and Section 232 tariffs, which are tantamount to taxes on American consumers. In the absence of full rescission of both tariff policies, PPAI supports legislation requiring the United States Trade Representative and Department of Commerce to implement a transparent exclusion process for products subject to tariff actions under Section 301 and Section 232.
Used with permission from PPAI Media