Somewhat behind the scenes, the House and Senate are in the middle of a process to determine how to cut costs for U.S. manufacturers without significantly denting U.S. government revenues: the construction of a Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB).

From time to time Congress considers proposals to temporarily suspend application of U.S. import duties on specific types of equipment, components and industrial inputs which may not be available from domestic suppliers. The intent is to give a tariff break to U.S. manufacturers who must import needed inputs. The previous attempt to forge agreement on a compromise package failed at end of the 111th Congress in December 2010.

In April of this year, tariff suspension proposals were solicited from members of the House and Senate. Before such proposals can be rolled up into an MTB legislative package to be considered in the House and Senate, each proposal must 1) be introduced as a stand-alone piece of legislation, with a bill number and accompanying background documentation and 2) not cost the U.S Treasury more than $500,000 annually in lost revenue, 3) be workable for U.S. Customs authorities, and 4) clear a vetting process that includes a diligent review of whether a like or competing product is available from U.S. manufacturers. If one or more U.S. companies are found through vetting that can provide the specified product or input, the proposal to suspend the U.S. import duties is dropped. The due diligence/vetting is performed by the relevant committees in the House and Senate as well as the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission.

In my estimation, over 100 bills under consderation are of direct interest to NEMA manufacturers. The inputs concern range from materials used in phosphors for fluorescent and high-intensity discharge lighting as well as other lighting components to parts for motors and wind turbines; from helium to specific types of process controls; from batteries to protective electrical outlets.  NEMA is working to vet many of these proposals with member groups to ensure they are not controversial and would not negatively impact any domestic suppliers of specified inputs. If you want more information, contact me at craig.updyke@nema.org or feel free to comment on proposals in the House or Senate directly via their respective committees.

The vetting process is aupposed to wrap later this month and a final package could be considered in the House and Senate prior to the Hill's August recess. But final passage could be put off until the fall or a post-election "lame-duck session".


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