More than two years after import duty breaks under the Generalized System of Preferences expired, dozens of countries whose goods benefitted from GSP are again urging Congress to reauthorize the program.

(GSP is one of several trade issues Congress may take up this year; learn more at ST&R’s March 16 webinar.)

GSP, which provides duty-free treatment for imports of thousands of products from more than 100 developing nations, expired Dec. 31, 2020, meaning GSP-eligible goods have been subject to U.S. tariffs since Jan. 1, 2021. Congress must act for the program to be reauthorized, but lawmakers have failed to do so amid disagreements on whether and how much to reform GSP. While the program generally enjoys bipartisan support, some have pushed for changes such as revising eligibility requirements to reflect human rights, environmental, or other considerations; adding or removing beneficiary countries; and altering the list of covered products.

In a Feb. 16 letter to the leaders of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees, which have jurisdiction over GSP, a group of 27 beneficiary countries again called for the renewal of the program.

“For many years, each of our countries has utilized the trade preference program to further our economic development and raise standards of living according to its objectives,” the letter said. “Through decades the program boosted growth across many sectors benefitting companies of all sizes.” After more than two years of not being able to access GSP benefits, the countries said, “the urgent re-authorization of the program has become a central piece on the trade agenda of our countries.”

GSP also benefits the U.S., they said, where “thousands of U.S. firms and jobs … rely on raw materials and intermediate imports covered by GSP.” Highlighting some of the Biden administration’s top priorities, the letter noted that GSP allows domestic manufacturers and consumers to diversify supplier sources and limit vulnerability, strengthens U.S. supply chain resilience, and ensures economic stability.

The beneficiary countries asked the congressional leaders for an in-person meeting to discuss GSP renewal, including potential reforms to the program.

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