Miscellaneous Trade Bill Reform Could Move Forward Soon
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, has put together a plan that aims to resume 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. No MTB has been passed since 2010, in large part because some lawmakers view it as an earmark, a form of government spending that benefits only a few and is prohibited under House Republican rules. However, press sources indicate that Brady’s plan could be introduced as legislation as early as April.
Under this plan, the MTB process would begin exclusively through petitions made by U.S. and local businesses to the International Trade Commission rather than in legislation introduced by members of Congress. The ITC would analyze such petitions, taking into consideration comments from the public and the White House. The ITC would then issue a public report to Congress with its analysis and recommendations regarding products that meet the MTB tests (including that there is no domestic production), with suggested technical changes and adjustments in product scope to protect domestic producers.
Next, Ways and Means would examine the ITC’s recommendations and draft an MTB proposal. The committee could exclude products from its final proposal but could not add products that were not recommended by the ITC. 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, which may be considered under House rules if no member has introduced them and Ways and Means publishes a list). Finally, the House and Senate would consider the MTB within existing rules.