H.R. 4318, Miscellaneous Tariff Bill Act of 2018 Passes Congress

On September 4th, the US House of Representatives agreed to the Senate amendments by voice vote, thus clearing the bill for the President’s desk.   The House first passed this legislation in Jan. 2018.

H.R. 4318 amends the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States to temporarily modify certain rates of duty for provisions recommended by the International Trade Commission (ITC) pursuant to the new process established in the American Manufacturing and Competitiveness Act of 2016. The legislation includes more than 1,600 products that were recommended by the ITC.

Through the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB), Congress suspends or reduces tariffs on certain imports for three years. Most of these duty suspensions relate to chemicals or other inputs used by U.S. manufacturers, who assert that the tariff relief provided by the MTB helps reduce their manufacturing costs, thus making their products more competitive.

Criteria for MTB consideration are that each duty suspension must be noncontroversial (e.g., no domestic producer or Member objects); revenue-neutral (foregone tariffs of no more than $500,000 per product in a calendar year); and administrable by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The MTB offers only temporary, not permanent, relief from tariffs, maintaining an incentive for companies to develop the capability to manufacture these products in the United States.

Congress passed the American Manufacturing Competitiveness Act of 2016 last Congress to establish an open and transparent process for consideration of the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill. This bill established a three step process that did the following:

First, the new process begins with companies filing petitions with the ITC, an independent and non-partisan independent agency. After the petitions are submitted, the ITC receives comments from the public and the Administration and conducts its analysis.

Second, the ITC issues a public report to Congress with its analysis and recommendations regarding products that meet the process bill’s standards.

Third, the Ways and Means Committee examines the ITC’s recommendations and drafts legislation implementing those recommendations. While the Committee can exclude products from its bill, it cannot add products that were not recommended by the ITC. As required by House rules, Ways and Means publishes a list of any Limited Tariff Benefits. Congress then considers the MTB within existing rules.

In August 2017, the ITC provided a final report to Congress that included recommendations concerning more than 2,500 petitions. The ITC recommended that more than 1,800 of the petitions (covering more than 1,600 products) be included in the legislation.

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