WASHINGTON — The House passed legislation Wednesday that will benefit textile producers and apparel brands by establishing a new process for eliminating tariffs on imported inputs and products not commercially available in the U.S.
The bill passed overwhelmingly on a vote of 415 to 2. The move was hailed by brands, retailers and textile producers, a large coalition of which has called on Congress to pass the “American Manufacturing Competitiveness Act of 2016.”
The legislation is seen as a first step to revitalizing a process that U.S. brands and textile producers have relied on for years known as the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill process. Congress has periodically approved MTB bills, suspending duties on millions of dollars’ worth of certain imported components to help U.S. manufacturers better compete.
But the last bill expired in 2012 and was never renewed. That left companies having to pay tens of thousands of dollars in tariffs on imported components that they need to make their products because many of the inputs are no longer made in the U.S.
“Since 2012, American manufacturers have had to pay full tariffs — border taxes, in essence — for certain imported products not made in the U.S., unnecessarily increasing their costs,” said House Ways and Means Committee chairman Kevin Brady (R., Tex.). “These tariffs have cost them $748 million annually and there has been no opportunity for them to get relief from these taxes. These border taxes in turn have made it harder for them to sell their products, grow their business, create jobs and invest in their communities. By passing this bill today, we’re taking a tremendous step to ensure that we finally have a system in place that helps our manufacturers compete in the global market — and win.”
Augustine Tantillo, president and chief executive officer at the National Council of Textile Organizations, said: “It is crucial for the Senate to move quickly so that the long-stalled MTB process can be restarted. The MTB is essential to American competitiveness as U.S. textile manufacturers reinvest the duty savings to boost jobs and innovation.”
Under the legislation, local businesses will petition the U.S. International Trade Commission, which then will solicit comments from the public and the administration, conduct an analysis and issue a public report to Congress with recommendations regarding products that meet the MTB criteria, including that there is no domestic production.
If that legislation on the new process is enacted, the two key committees in the House and Senate could then introduce MTB legislation containing duty suspensions for scores of imported products and components, which must also pass before companies would again see duty breaks.
A companion bill in the Senate has been introduced and is expected to advance.