A handful of public interest groups asked Congress Sept. 11 to “create a path forward” for miscellaneous trade bills, which suspend duties on imported inputs and products for which there is no or insufficient domestic production and availability.

The letter states that MTBs “provide relief from tariffs on highly-sought finished goods and raw materials brought into the United States” and “have long served as a bipartisan approach to lessening the burden of government and increasing economic growth.” However, the letter adds, Congress has not passed an MTB package since 2010 and “should not allow this opportunity to pass it by once again.” Since the last MTB expired at the end of 2012, U.S. businesses in industries such as agriculture, electronics, textiles, chemicals and others have reportedly faced an annual $748 million tax increase on manufacturing.

One of the primary roadblocks to reauthorizing the MTB has been that some lawmakers view it as an earmark, a form of government spending that benefits only a few and is thus increasingly untenable in the current fiscal environment. The Senate-passed version of the customs reauthorization bill now awaiting a conference to resolve differences with the House version seeks to address that concern by eliminating the requirement for each proposed duty suspension to be introduced as a separate bill. Instead, individual measures would be reviewed by the International Trade Commission, with input from the White House, before being assembled into a final MTB package that Congress would then consider.

The public interest groups backed this reform effort, which “would greatly benefit taxpayers by increasing transparency and accountability.” In July, organizations representing tens of thousands of small, medium and large manufacturers, retailers and other businesses said they also support the reform for similar reasons. However, the public interest group letter cautioned that “Congress should ensure that the ITC does not use MTBs to reward or deny tariff relief based on political considerations.”


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