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The Value of the MTB

May 10, 2012

Two years ago we had the privilege to sit in the White House while President Obama signed into law the United States Manufacturing Enhancement Act of 2010.  That important legislation temporarily eliminated or reduced import tariffs on a range of products that are no longer made in the United States.  That legislation carried on a long tradition in which Congress periodically packages together a number of individual tariff reduction or suspension measures into a combined bill, which is often referred to as the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB).
The duty suspension measures that President Obama signed into law that hot August day are scheduled to expire at the end of this year.
Fortunately, Congress is now hard at work reviewing about 1,000 bills that have been introduced over the past month to extend many of those expiring provisions and/or consider new measures to see if they can be considered.  Generally, in order to be eligible for inclusion in the MTB, the proposed duty reduction or suspension of an article must meet11 criteria, including the following three:
(a) It must not result in more than $500,000 in lost duty revenue annually (so we are not talking big ticket items),
(b)It must be non-controversial (usually this means it is not produced in the United States), and
(c)It must be able to be administered.  
Moreover, the vetting includes careful analysis by the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee, the International Trade Commission, and the Administrationto make sure each measure passes muster.  This involves repeated opportunity to comment.  As an added bonus, much of this review process is online so all stakeholders have full transparency to see the status of individual requests, including comments – both pro and con – that are posted on each bill.
At AAFA, we are excited by the MTB process for several reasons.
First, we see this as an exercise in good government as Congress carries out its authorities under Article I Section 8 of the Constitution while giving individual stakeholders multiple chances to petition government, in advance of their First Amendment rights.
Second, we know that the MTB means U.S. jobs, often in the manufacturing sector.  By reducing or suspending duties on certain imports that are not found in the United States, the MTB lowers costs for U.S. companies that depend on those imports for their competitiveness.  It’s that simple.
And when we see the individual provisions that we hope will be included in the final MTB, we see the faces of the individual U.S. workers who will benefit once that MTB is enacted – be it the 35 factory workers in Taunton, MA, the 15 in Traveler’s Rest, SC, the 600 in Hendersonville, NC; the 600 in Douglas, GA; or the thousands more U.S. workers employed in the textile, apparel, and footwear industry throughout the United States.
As we reflect on the theme of today’s discussion in Imports Work for America Week, we see the MTB as one of the main ways in which Imports Work for U.S. Manufacturers.