U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) today reintroduced their bipartisan Duty Suspension Process Act, continuing their efforts to simplify trade processes for America's manufacturers and guard against the return of Congressional earmarks.
"There is no question that American companies can go head-to-head with foreign competitors when operating on a level playing field, but oftentimes unfair tariffs put them at a disadvantage. Our bill would bring needed transparency and simplification to a system few currently understand," Portman said. "By streamlining the process and allowing job creators to take their concerns directly to the ITC, our bill will not only save job creators time and resources but also make it easier for them to get a fair and thorough review. I am committed to seeing a bill pass this year."
"We can and should be working across the aisle to level the playing field for American businesses," McCaskill said. "Seeking tariff relief shouldn't boil down to the relationship you have with a lawmaker--it should be based on the merits--and that's exactly what this bill aims to accomplish."
In today's high-tech and globalized economy, American companies need a host of specialized materials, such as certain fibers or chemicals, to manufacture products. Often, those materials are not produced in the United States and can only be purchased abroad. Tariffs on importing those specialized materials produced overseas, however, can drive up costs, putting American manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage to their foreign competitors. In some cases, tariffs on these specialized imports are so expensive that companies decide it's in their best interest to move production from the U.S. to overseas altogether, hurting American job growth.
Current rules allow companies that require products from overseas to obtain 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, and often finds that some of these un-vetted bills actually hurt U.S. manufacturers. 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 to ask a member of Congress to sponsor their relief measure. This places a difficult burden on many small businesses.
Portman and McCaskill's legislation would streamline the process for duty-suspensions by allowing companies to submit their proposals directly to the ITC. Once the ITC reviews and accepts the proposal, it will be sent to Congress for final approval. These changes would bolster accountability by lessening the chance for backdoor earmarks and would reduce barriers for job-creators, who would no longer be forced to spend time and resources on hiring lobbyists to secure Congressional support at the start of the process.
The bill authorizes the new process to be used for three rounds (2013, 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 2013 round so that it can be completed under a truncated timeline.