NAFTZ capped off its highly successful 2018 Legislative Summit on February 13 by hosting a special reception on Capitol Hill to recognize four Members of Congress for their leadership support and encouragement for the Foreign-Trade Zone Program.
The 2018 Congressional Appreciation Awards marked the first time in several years that NAFTZ had made a special effort to thank specific Senators and Representatives. The awards were reinstituted by the Board of Directors as a key component of NAFTZ’s 2018 Advocacy Campaign.
Approximately 100 NAFTZ members and guests joined various congressional staffers at the evening reception in the Capitol Visitor Center. NAFTZ President Erik Autor welcomed the attendees and presided over the presentation of awards.
Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R-California). Kevin McCarthy is the House Majority Leader – the Number-Two ranking member of the House Leadership. Congressman McCarthy is a former small businessman from the Bakersfield, California area and was first elected to the House just 12 years ago.
In presenting the award, NAFTZ Board Member Chris Smith of IKEA Purchasing Services US noted that while Congressman McCarthy is one of the most influential officeholders in Washington, he also remains responsive to his community and his constituents. In 2017, Kern County FTZ 276 in Congressman McCarthy’s District 23 applied to reestablish and expand in association with the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach. Congressman McCarthy provided strong support for the application, which was approved, allowing a smooth transition for the affected businesses. In accepting the award, Mr. McCarthy noted that he had been a strong supporter of the FTZ program since his days as a congressional district staffer.
Congressman John Lewis (D-Georgia). Julie Brown of Georgia FTZ Corp. acknowledged that Congressman John Lewis is a beloved iconic figure of the Civil Rights Movement. But, she stressed, that’s not all that Congressman Lewis is famous for. “Since his election to Congress in 1986,” she said, “he has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of his Atlanta constituents and all Georgians. And John Lewis understands that what the American people of all races and ethnicities need are good-paying jobs to support their families. I’m very pleased to say that throughout his 16 terms in Congress, John Lewis has consistently supported the FTZ program and I’m proud to present him with the 2018 Congressional Appreciation Award.”
Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon). Senator Wyden is the Ranking Minority Member on the Senate Finance Committee and is actively involved in trade issues. In presenting the award to Senator Wyden, NAFTZ President Erik Autor noted that in 2016, Senator Wyden asked the Government Accountability Office to study the FTZ program, to review issues related to CBP’s oversight of FTZs and the benefits and economic impacts of FTZs. The resulting report, titled “CBP Should Strengthen Its Ability to Assess and Respond to Compliance Risks across the Program,” identified several shortcomings in CBP’s enforcement activities, and CBP promptly accepted the report’s recommendations.
The report also stated, however, that “While FTZs were created to provide benefits to the American public; little is known about their economic impact. For example, few economic studies have focused on FTZs, and those that have do not quantify economic impacts or address the question of what the economic activity, such as employment, would have been in the absence of companies having FTZ status.”
“We understand this skepticism,” said Erik Autor. “While we see the benefits of FTZs every day and hear anecdotal information about the program’s value, we agree that little empirical evidence exists. So the FTZ Board has decided to accept that challenge, and we are in the process of commissioning a scholarly research study to determine the objective facts. We are grateful to Senator Wyden for his ongoing support of International Trade and for FTZ 45, and for prodding us to prove our claims about the FTZ program’s value.”
In accepting his award, Senator Wyden pledged to work cooperatively with NAFTZ to find ways to improve the program for the benefit of U.S. businesses.
Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas). Senator Cornyn is a member of the important Senate Finance Committee and Chairman of the Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs & Global Competitiveness. Representing the Number-One state in FTZ activity, Senator Cornyn has been a steadfast supporter of the Foreign-Trade Zone program for many years and a valuable ally in NAFTZ’s efforts to modernize CBP. NAFTZ Board Member Shane Williams of Port Houston said “I can think of no other senator who is more deserving to be called a friend of the FTZ program than Senator Cornyn.” Due to a scheduling conflict, Senator Cornyn was not able to attend the reception and Taylor Weeks of his staff accepted the award on his behalf. She pledged to continue working to advance the program.
On Wednesday (Valentine’s Day), members of the NAFTZ Board spent the day back on Capitol Hill, visiting with key members of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees and other members from FTZ-intensive states. The NAFTZ delegations stressed the importance of our 2018 Policy Priorities, including improvements to NAFTA, a smooth transition to ACE – including completion of programming for FTZ e214 admissions, revising the FTZ Board’s “production scope of authority” regulations and Customs’ Part 146 FTZ regulations, and other related issues.
In addition to the fifteen congressional offices visited by delegations of NAFTZ Board Members, many other NAFTZ members also fanned out across the Hill to stress the importance of the FTZ program with their home state and district Senators and Representatives.