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Miscellaneous Trade Bill Process Moves Forward

President Obama signed into law on 20 May the American Manufacturing Competitiveness Act (H.R. 4923), which reforms the process of developing and enacting miscellaneous trade bills that suspend duties on imported inputs and products for which there is no or insufficient domestic production and availability.

Under H.R. 4923, the MTB process will begin with petitions submitted by U.S. businesses to the U.S. International Trade Commission rather than via legislation introduced by members of Congress. The USITC will analyse these petitions, taking into account comments received from the public and the White House, and then issue a public report to Congress with its recommendations regarding those products that meet MTB standards. The House Ways and Means Committee will then examine the USITC’s recommendations and draft an MTB, which may exclude products recommended by the USITC but may not add products that are not recommended. The committee will have to certify that there are no spending earmarks and publish a list of any limited tariff benefits (tax cuts that benefit ten or fewer businesses). The House and Senate will then consider the MTB within existing rules.

With the new rules in place, the USITC will launch the first MTB process in six years no later than 15 October and interested parties are welcome to submit comments by 16 August on two new forms to be used in this process. MTB petitions will be collected for 60-day periods starting 15 October 2016 and 15 October 2019. Each interested party will be required to establish a user account on the USITC website to either submit or comment on a petition. Following the petition and comment periods the USITC will be required to make recommendations concerning the petitions and provide Congress with the necessary information to enable it to decide which petitions should be included in an MTB.

The overarching goal of the MTB process is to provide duty relief to U.S. companies and consumers where there is no domestic production and no impact on U.S. companies, which is an objective shared by a vast majority of U.S. lawmakers, although procedural hurdles and political wrangling over earmarks had prevented consideration of an MTB package in recent years. Importantly, many of the items included in previous MTB efforts were of potential interest to Hong Kong and mainland Chinese exporters.

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