C. Jones Specialist in International Trade and Finance
importers often request that Members of Congress introduce bills seeking to
temporarily suspend or reduce tariffs on certain imports. The vast
majority of these bills address chemicals, raw materials, or other
components used as inputs in the manufacturing process. The rationale for these
requests, in general, is that they help domestic producers of the downstream
goods reduce costs, thus making their products more competitive. In turn,
these cost reductions may be passed on to the consumer.
In recent congressional practice, the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance
Committees, the committees of jurisdiction over tariffs, have combined
individual duty suspension bills and other technical trade provisions into
larger pieces of legislation known as miscellaneous trade (or tariff) bills
(MTBs). Before inclusion in an MTB, the individual legislative proposals
introduced by Members are reviewed by the trade subcommittee staff in each
committee, the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC), and executive
branch agencies to ensure that they are noncontroversial (generally, that
no domestic producer, Member, or government agency objects), relatively
revenue-neutral (revenue loss due to the duty suspension of no more than
$500,000 per item), and are able to be administered by U.S. Customs and
Border Protection (CBP).
In the 111th Congress, the United States Manufacturing Enhancement Act of 2010
(P.L. 111-227) was signed by the President on August 11, 2010. As enacted,
the law temporarily suspended or reduced for three years (through December
31, 2012) duties on over 600 products, many of which renewed duty
suspensions or reductions that were already in place. On December 15, 2010,
H.R. 6517, a bill that, in part, proposed duty suspensions on
approximately 290 additional products, passed in the House. Due to changes
in the Senate version of the bill subsequently approved in the House, the
duty suspensions were dropped (became P.L. 111-344).
MTB legislation may be addressed in the lame duck session of the 112th Congress.
The process began on March 30, 2012, when Chairman Camp and Ranking Member
Levin of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Chairman Brady and
Ranking Member McDermott of the Trade Subcommittee announced the beginning
of the MTB process in the House, and invited Members to submit duty
suspension bills by April 30, 2012. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Baucus also
announced on March 30 that duty suspension bills would be due in the Senate on
the same date. Since the duty suspensions enacted in P.L. 111-227 expire
on December 30, 2012, MTB legislation in the 112th Congress could include
renewal of some or all of the provisions in that law, those included in
H.R. 6517 in the 111th Congress that were not enacted, as well as new duty suspensions.
On June 12, 2012, S. 3292, the Temporary Duty Suspension Process Act of 2012, a
bill seeking to require the USITC to recommend temporary duty suspensions
to Congress, was introduced. This bill is similar, but not identical, to
S. 1162 (the Removing Hurdles for American Manufacturers Act of 2011),
introduced on June 9, 2011.
This report discusses: first, the review process of duty suspension bills by
House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committee staff, the U.S.
International Trade Commission (USITC), and other relevant agencies;
second, MTB legislation debated in the past few Congresses; and third,
some details of the debate for MTB passage. Finally, MTB legislation considered
in Congress from 1983 to the present is summarized in Table A-1.
Date of Report: November 5, 2012
Number of Pages: 19 Order Number: RL33867 Price: $29.95
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