While most attention in recent weeks has been focused almost exclusively on the fight in Congress over giving President Barack Obama authority to negotiate trade agreements, other lesser noticed pieces of legislation – arguably of more immediate concern and impact to the trade community – are currently working their way through the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees.
Bipartisan bill S.998 introduced on April 16 that would establish a new process for Congressional consideration of a Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB), which is currently before the Senate Finance Committee. Dubbed the American Manufacturing Competitiveness Act of 2015, the legislation would reform the process for approving MTBs which suspend or reduce import taxes on necessary manufacturing inputs that are not available in the United States and must be imported from overseas.
MTBs had historically been noncontroversial, receiving strong bipartisan and bicameral support, but Congress has not passed a new bill since the last bill expired at the end of 2012. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) claims that failure to renew the MTB has resulted in an annual $748 million “tax hike” on manufacturing in the U.S. and an economic loss to the domestic manufacturing sector of more than $2 billion. NAM calls the new proposal “a no-brainer” and says it is “a long overdue step that would pave the way for the elimination of taxes that harm manufacturers.”
Another major piece of legislation currently being considered by Senate and House committees is the wide-ranging Customs Reauthorization Bill that, in addition to underwriting trade facilitation programs such as the development and implementation of the Automated Commercial Environment, also appropriates funding for a number of trade enforcement initiatives such as the establishment of a new Commercial Targeting Division within CBP’s Office of Trade. The new division would be responsible for targeting imports that may violate customs and trade laws, with particular focus on laws and regulations related to agriculture programs, AD/CV duties, import safety, intellectual property rights, revenue, textiles and wearing apparel, and trade agreements and preference programs.
Significant highlights of the Customs Reauthorization legislation have been outlined at some length in a recent edition of the Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report.