The House of Representatives passed on January 16, 2018 a bill providing temporary duty relief on about 1,800 imported products that are not available or produced in the United States. The Miscellaneous Tariff Bill Act of 2017 sailed through the chamber with a 402-0 vote, signaling overwhelmingly strong bipartisan support and proving there are still some things politicians can agree on.
The bill is the first product of a new process established through the American Manufacturing Competitiveness Act of 2016, which codified elements of the previous Congressional-led process. Among other things, the Act also tasked the non-partisan U.S. International Trade Commission with reviewing petitions for consistency against statutory criteria, coordinating an inter-agency process, and recommending a legislative package for congressional consideration. According to a House Ways and Means Committee statement, when enacted in law, the MTB Act is expected to lower the cost of imports, create more jobs, increase wages for American workers, boost America’s competitiveness, and ultimately decrease prices for consumers.
All eyes are now on the Senate, where Senate Finance Committee Chairman Hatch and Ranking Member Wyden have voiced previous support to quickly move legislation, as staff continue to consider procedural strategies for moving the bill, either as a stand-alone measure or as part of a larger package. There have been previous reports of a preference to move MTB in tandem with the expired Generalized System of Preferences program; however the House-passed bill included only the MTB. Many have pointed to the budget spending package as a potential vehicle for both items – despite several attempts to enact more than stop-gap measures on that package – however, any reports including MTB in the mix on active legislative is a positive sign. Though the final play has not yet crystalized, with several options at hand and strong support from both industry and the House, enactment is very much within reach when the Senate is ready to step to the plate.