Miscellaneous Trade Bill Reform Moves Forward in House
The House Ways and Means Committee amended and unanimously approved April 20 a bill (H.R. 4923) to reform the process of developing and enacting miscellaneous trade bills, which suspend duties on imported inputs and products for which there is no or insufficient domestic production and availability.
Under this bill, the MTB process would begin through petitions made by U.S. businesses to the International Trade Commission rather than via legislation introduced by members of Congress. The ITC would analyze these petitions, taking into account comments received from the public and the White House, and then issue a public report to Congress with its recommendations regarding those products that meet MTB standards. Ways and Means would then examine the ITC’s recommendations and draft an MTB, which could exclude products recommended by the ITC but could not add products that were not recommended. The committee would have to certify that there are no spending earmarks and publish a list of any limited tariff benefits (tax cuts that benefit ten or fewer businesses). The House and Senate would then consider the MTB within existing rules.
Among the changes made to the bill in committee markup are the following.
- requires the ITC to publish petitions on a publicly available website and solicit public comments on those petitions
- allows the ITC to determine whether (not that) certain tests have been met
- requires the ITC to determine that a proposed duty suspension or reduction can likely be administered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection
- requires the ITC to determine whether the estimated loss in revenue from a duty suspension or reduction does not exceed $500,000 in a calendar year
- provides that the appropriate congressional committees will adjust the amount of a duty suspension or reduction in an MTB only to assure that the estimated loss in revenue, as estimated by the Congressional Budget Office, does not exceed $500,000
- requires the procedures concerning the release of confidential business information set forth in section 332(g) of the 1930 Tariff Act to apply with respect to information received by the ITC in posting petitions on its website and preparing reports for Congress
- requires the ITC to submit to Congress no later than one year after the date of enactment of an MTB a report on its effects on the U.S. economy
Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin, D-Mich., said he is not convinced that this revised process is “preferable to the process in the past,” which was both “rigorous” and “transparent.” However, he deemed the bill “acceptable” and said it should move forward “without further delay,” noting estimates by the National Association of Manufacturers that U.S. companies have had to pay $748 million in additional duties annually since the last MTB expired on Dec. 31, 2012.