Congress has been working for several months on “China competitiveness” legislation, which may turn out to be the most far-reaching legislation of 2022. On February 17th, the House-passed “America COMPETES Act” (“COMPETES”) was officially received in the Senate, which may clear the way to begin a formal “conference committee” to resolve differences between that bill and the Senate-passed “United States Competition and Innovation Act” (“USICA”).
Both bills provide more than $50 billion in immediate funding for semiconductor production and research. Both bills also authorize more than $200 billion in future efforts to develop key technology areas. And the bills include additional proposals to address supply chain issues and promote fair trade.
However, there are several noteworthy differences. The House bill was put together by 12 different House committees (compared to eight in the Senate) and at 3,610 pages is more than 1,200 pages longer than the Senate bill. Here are 16 areas that could be difficult to resolve in House-Senate negotiations.
- CHIPS Act Funding Restrictions: While both bills contain identical funding levels for semiconductors, the House bill places additional restrictions on these CHIPS Act grant recipients. It would prevent CHIPS funding from being used on stock buybacks or dividend payments and requires semiconductor funding applicants to provide data on workforce diversity.
- Research Funding Priorities: Both bills provide over $80 billion in new program authorization for the National Science Foundation, although with different priorities. And the House bill contemplates a much larger role for the Department of Energy ($150 billion compared to $17 billion) and the Department of Commerce ($85 billion compared to $ 17 billion).
- Commerce Supply Chain Resilience Fund: Both bills create new supply chain resilience authorities at the Department of Commerce. However, the House bill also authorizes $45 billion for a new supply chain resilience fund.
- Additional GSP Country Criteria: As a condition of eligibility for the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program, the House bill requires countries to meet updated criteria relating to labor laws and new criteria on human rights and the environment.
- Trade Act Section 301 Exclusion Process: The Senate bill establishes a statutory framework to establish a general exclusion process for goods impacted by tariffs under section 301 of the Trade Act. Many exclusions from duties on imported Chinese goods expired at the end of 2020 and have not been renewed.
- Successive Investigations under Trade Remedies Laws: The House bill creates authority for successive antidumping and countervailing duties investigations. The provisions are designed to address situations where U.S. producers have won relief from unfair trade practices involving goods (such as steel) produced in one country, only to be followed by a surge of similar imports from another country.
- Overseas Investment Review: The National Critical Capabilities Review Act establishes a government committee to review (and potentially disapprove) overseas investments in countries of concern, which has been described as a “reverse CFIUS” process. It is included in the House bill.
- Trade Adjustment Assistance: The House bill includes $21.8 billion in new Trade Adjustment Assistance Act authority for trade-impacted workers, firms, and communities.
- Customs De Minimis Rule: The House bill modifies the existing $800 de minimis rule on imported goods by making it inapplicable to goods from countries that have non-market economies and are on the watch list for intellectual property violations. As drafted, the provision would apply to imported goods from China.
- Climate Change Funding: The House bill includes new State Department authorizations of $10 billion for international climate change mitigation, adaptation, and security, and an additional $8 billion for the United Nations Green Climate Fund.
- Space Program Funding: The Senate bill contains $23.5 billion for the NASA Authorization Act and an additional $10 billion for the human landing system program.
- HHS Strategic Stockpile: The House bill authorizes $10.5 billion for HHS to make grants to states to expand or maintain a strategic stockpile of drugs, medical equipment and personal protective equipment; the House bill also includes $895 million to increase the federal Strategic National Stockpile.
- DARPA R&D Authorization: The Senate bill authorizes $17.5 billion for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to conduct research within the ten key technology focus areas in the bill.
- New Sanctions Authority: The Senate bill contains new sanctions authority relating to cybersecurity and trade secrets; the House bill contains no similar provisions. Both bills include similar Uyghur sanctions language, although the House bill includes additional requirements regarding specific companies.
- SAFE Banking Act: The House bill includes provisions to allow “state-legal cannabis businesses” to access the banking system.
- Immigration Provisions: The House bill includes provisions to create a new “W” visa for nonimmigrant entrepreneurs. It also includes provisions relating to Uyghur and Afghan refugees.