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Congress Hits the Ground Running – Focus on Trade, Competitiveness

May 2, 2023

As expected, the 118th Congress got off to a quick start, with both the House & Senate cognizant of the abbreviated calendar they’re up against this term.  With a looming Presidential election in 2024, and primaries less than 12 months away, the new session is likely to be a sprint from start to finish. 

Here’s what we’ve been following during the first quarter of 2023.

The Senate Finance Committee, whose jurisdiction includes issues related to trade enforcement and customs, held a hearing in mid-February focused on “Ending Trade that Cheats American Workers By Modernizing Trade Laws and Enforcement, Fighting Forced Labor, Eliminating Counterfeits, and Leveling the Playing Field.”  Chairman Ron Wyden signaled that the hearing was likely to be the first of many focused on the challenges faced by American businesses as a result of unfair competition – including the trafficking of counterfeit goods – from abroad.  We will continue to engage with committee staff to advance commonsense legislation to address a number of longstanding challenges – including through the Customs Modernization Act, which is expected to be introduced later this year.

Three weeks later, the IP Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee also made clear that China would remain a top priority, holding a hearing entitled, “Intellectual Property and Strategic Competition with China: Part I.”  As was the case with the Finance hearing, the IP Subcommittee heard testimony on a variety of issues including trade secret theft, a range of patent issues, and continuing concerns related to counterfeiting and piracy.  The Senate Judiciary Committee covered similar ground the following month, with its own IP Subcommittee holding a hearing on “Foreign Competitive Threats to American Innovation and Economic Leadership.”

In early March, Senate Judiciary also held a hearing highlighting growing bipartisan concerns related to the application of Section 230 and its impact on the online landscape.  Members from both sides of the aisle expressed dissatisfaction at how the law has been construed by courts to create a near-absolute shield against liability for the publication of third-party content.  The issue was at the heart of a dispute heard by the Supreme Court during its current session, and lawmakers appeared pessimistic about the likelihood that the Court would resolve their concerns.  Section 230 reform has been on Congress’ radar for several years, but to date, they’ve yet to reach a consensus on how best to address stakeholders concerns while also maintaining the vitality of the online ecosystem. 

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