U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) today introduced a bipartisan amendment to simplify trade processes for America's manufacturers, and guard against the return of Congressional earmarks.
"Reducing tariffs on products for which there is no U.S. competition is a good idea. It will reduce costs for Ohio businesses and consumers and help create jobs. But we must ensure that the process for approving these sensible tariff cuts is merit-driven, not lobbyist-driven," Portman said. "Job creators are seeking relief from high tariffs to provide the certainty necessary to hire workers and grow their companies, but the process needs to be reformed. This measure will enhance accountability and simplify the process by allowing the experts at the International Trade Commission to make the determination about which tariffs qualify."
"Working together, across the aisle, to expand job opportunities and increase accountability is exactly what's expected of us by Missourians, Ohioans, and folks across the country," McCaskill said. "While we work on next steps to boost our small businesses, I'm proud to work with Senator Portman on a commonsense plan to support our country's manufacturers and guard against other members of Congress returning to their old ways of earmarking and pork-barrel spending."
In today's high-tech and globalized economy, American companies need a host of specialized materials, such as certain fibers or chemicals, to build their products. Often, those materials are not produced in the United States, and can only be purchased abroad. However, tariffs on those specialized materials produced overseas can make them expensive to import, putting American manufacturers at a disadvantage with respect to their foreign competition. In some cases, tariffs on these specialized inputs make it cheaper to move production overseas altogether-hurting American job-growth.
Current rules allow companies needing such products from overseas to get tariff relief. Congress has regularly passed a "Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB)" comprised of hundreds of tariff reductions for such products. In order to have a tariff reduction provision included in the MTB, however, companies must first find a member of Congress to sponsor the provision. Only when a provision has been introduced as a stand-alone bill can it be sent to the International Trade Commission (ITC). The ITC then reviews all provisions. The provisions that meet standards are bundled into a package that becomes the MTB. In order to get a tariff relief bill introduced, these companies usually hire lobbyists, a difficult hurdle for small businesses, and some have felt compelled to make political contributions to the politician.
Portman and McCaskill's legislation would streamline the process for duty-suspensions by allowing companies to submit their proposals directly to the International Trade Commission, and retaining final approval for Congress. These changes would bolster accountability by lessening the chance for backdoor earmarks-and would improve the process for job-creators, as they would no longer be forced to hire lobbyists to help get individual legislation introduced at the start of the process.
The bill authorizes the new process to be used for three rounds (2012, 2015, and 2018). While it requires a comprehensive review by the ITC of all possible eligible items in 2015 and 2018, an exception is included for the 2012 round so that it can be completed under a truncated timeline.