To address the ocean carrier supply chain crisis and high cost of shipping containers, IHA is part of a broad coalition of business groups working to pass the Ocean Shipping Reform Act (OSRA), which is a “Shippers Bill of Rights” to give importers and exporters much greater legal standing and the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) more tools to deal with unreasonable ocean carrier practices.
On Dec. 8, OSRA 2021 (H.R. 4996) was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on a big bipartisan vote of 364-60. IHA members played an important role in this victory by using an electronic letter-writing platform to contact 157 members of Congress of which 136 voted in favor of OSRA 21.
The House’s momentum-building vote appears to have stymied any pushback in the Senate and on Feb. 3, Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Thune (R-SD) introduced OSRA 2022 (S. 3580), which is the companion bill to H.R. 4996. Klobuchar also introduced the Ocean Shipping Competition Reform Act (S. 3586) to deal with the ocean carriers’ anti-trust exemption.
The OSRA coalition sent a letter of support for OSRA 22 to Sens. Klobuchar and Thune that was signed by 89 trade associations including IHA, the American Trucking Associations, National Association of Manufacturers, and National Retail Federation. IHA and other coalition members also plan to submit comments to the FMC’s Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for a Demurrage & Detention Rule.
On the tariff front, the Biden Administration won’t be lifting the Section 301 tariffs on products made in China anytime soon. Though these tariffs are adding to inflationary pressure, this consideration has been subordinated to geopolitical concerns such as China’s provocative actions towards Taiwan and the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act which goes into effect June 21. However, there is bipartisan support in Congress to do something about the tariffs as well as a legal challenge to the tariffs that has the potential to change the playing field.
In June 2021, the Senate passed the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) to combat China economically. The bill’s main thrust is bringing semiconductor chip production back to the U.S., but it also contains language added by Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) for greater structure and transparency in the tariff exemption process. On Feb. 4, the House passed its bill to improve American competitiveness with China, the America COMPETES Act, but it’s silent on the tariff exemption process and has trade provisions that are opposed by business organizations. However, the Senate is likely to prevail if and when the House and Senate agree to a conference to hash out differences between their bills.
Perhaps the most promising development concerning tariffs was in the Court of International Trade, which heard oral arguments on Feb. 1 in the case challenging Sec. 301 duties on Chinese goods covered by Lists 3 and 4A. Some 3,700 plaintiffs, including a number of IHA members, have had their lawsuits consolidated and the case has a chance to prevail on List 3 and 4A being imposed beyond the statutory one-year window and the U.S. Trade Representative not following required steps under the Administrative Procedure Act. But regardless of how the CIT rules, this case will most likely end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.