U.S. lawmakers reach compromise on customs, currency rules

by Reuters
Wednesday, 9 December 2015 22:56 GMT

(Adds details on human trafficking, Nepal)

WASHINGTON, Dec 9 (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday agreed on a compromise to strengthen enforcement of trade laws and toughen rules against currency manipulation.

The legislation, agreed by lawmakers from both political parties and both houses of Congress, stops short of the sanctions for currency cheating which some lawmakers had demanded.

Instead, it allows the U.S. administration to bar countries from U.S. trade deals and government procurement contracts if they keep their currencies artificially low to gain a competitive advantage through cheaper exports.

Rules on human trafficking which could have complicated congressional passage of a landmark Pacific trade deal were also softened, as expected, although trading partners will still have to take concrete steps to tackle trafficking.

The bill, which makes it harder for foreign companies to avoid import duties imposed to stop competitors selling goods too cheaply in U.S. markets, was part of a package of trade legislation presented to Congress in June. It did not pass because of differences between the Senate and House of Representatives versions.

"Strong enforcement is a key element in our trade arsenal and thanks to this legislation, the Administration will have a number of new tools to hold America's trading partners accountable," said Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, chair of the committee that thrashed out the compromise.

Senator Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate committee responsible for trade, said the bill would also permanently ban unfair taxes on Internet commerce and on Internet access, upgrading a moratorium put in place in 1998.

It also opens the door for preferential treatment for some imports from Nepal, following an earthquake in April this year that killed almost 9,000 people.

Both the House and Senate have to approve the compromise before the changes can take effect. (Reporting by Krista Hughes; Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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