Growing Manufacturers’ Opportunities in the Asia Pacific: U.S. Push for Ambition and Market Access in TPP Must Continue

With President Obama’s Asia visit kicking off in Japan today, manufacturers are hopeful that the President and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will make meaningful progress towards achieving ambitious and market-opening outcomes in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, and that work will continue during the President’s visit to Malaysia to meet Prime Minister Najib Razak later this week. Manufacturers have long supported the negotiation of the TPP that TPP Leaders described in November 2011 that “will be a model for ambition for other free trade agreements in the future, forging close linkages among our economies, enhancing our competitiveness, benefitting our consumers and supporting the creation and retention of jobs, higher living standards, and the reduction of poverty in our countries.” Already, comprehensive, high-standard U.S. free trade agreements help propel nearly 50 percent of manufacturing goods exports around the world.  A TPP done right will boost the United States’ already record manufacturing exports, as well as other sales and other commercial opportunities, by linking America’s highly productive manufacturers to new consumers around the world.

As recognized by each of the TPP countries then and as manufacturers have long advocated, such an agreement must:

  • provide comprehensive market access that concretely levels the playing field;
  • ensure high standards on issues such as intellectual property, transparency and investment;
  • address new trade challenges such as cross-border data flows and longstanding issues such as competition from state-supported enterprises; and
  • incorporate strong enforcement mechanisms so that the agreement is more than words on a piece of paper.

When Japan joined the TPP talks in 2013, it committed to negotiate on the same ambitious basis that the existing TPP negotiating countries had already agreed. U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Mike Froman said today in Japan, the talks are at a “crossroads” and now is the time for Japan “to choose a bold path.”  Manufacturers agree.  Similarly bold choices must also continue in the capitals of all TPP partners to achieve an ambitious and fully market-opening outcome. Manufacturers urge Japan, Malaysia and all other TPP countries to continue to focus on that ambition this week and in the weeks to come so that the momentum of the TPP talks can be regained and that the TPP  countries’ commitment to an “ambitious, high standard and comprehensive”  agreement that was renewed in December 2013 can be achieved.

A successful TPP agreement that truly opens markets and improves the competitiveness of manufacturers in the United States represents an unprecedented opportunity to boost commercial ties throughout the Pacific Rim and beyond. The NAM continues to urge the immediate and comprehensive elimination of tariffs and non-tariff barriers, strong protections consistent with U.S. practice on intellectual property and investment for all products, new provisions to permit the movement of data cross border and new disciplines to ensure fair commercial competition with state-owned enterprises. These provisions all must be backed up by state-of-the-art enforcement provisions from state-to-state to investor-state mechanisms. Ultimately a successful, growth-producing TPP agreement will be one that ensure that manufacturers in the United States will be put on a fair and competitive footing in each of the TPP markets.

President Obama, Prime Minister Abe and Prime Minister Najib Razak have a critical opportunity this week to inject new vitality into the TPP talks. Manufacturers hope they will seize this occasion to move the negotiations closer to a pro-growth and pro-competitive conclusion.

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Ex-Im Critics Ignore Reality; Re-Authorization is Really about Jobs and Competitiveness

Over the last days and weeks, critics of the Export Import Bank (Ex-Im) have talked about lots of issues and attempted to smear lots of mud. Yet, they continue to ignore the crux of the Ex-Im issue: American jobs and American manufacturing competitiveness.

While critics may enjoy debates inside isolated ivory towers, our nation’s manufacturers have no such luxury. Manufacturers big and small, in communities across the country, face a highly competitive global economy every single day. Every sale made can mean jobs that are saved or new jobs are created. When they lose out to foreign competitors for sales, our nation’s manufacturers are faced with tough choices as they struggle to make payroll and keep their business on track.

Critics of Ex-Im’s reauthorization seem to ignore a basic fact of the global economy when complaining about sales of airplanes to foreign airlines or sales of capital equipment to foreign mining projects. The fact is that other countries are building up their infrastructure and striving to meet growing domestic demand for energy, transportation, water, crops and telecommunications. These projects are moving forward regardless of what the U.S. Congress does or doesn’t do on Ex-Im Bank reauthorization. The issue that Ex-Im reauthorization presents is whether those foreign projects will use products made in the United States by American workers or whether those sales will go to our competitors in Asia, Europe or elsewhere.

Outside the United States, at least 59 foreign export credit agencies (ECA) are working intensively to give our foreign competitors a leg up in sales in fast-growing overseas markets. Those ECAs do not hesitate to support all types of projects, with far less rigor than Ex-Im already places on the sales for which it provides financing, insurance, loan guarantees and other services.

The United States has led efforts to impose important disciplines on ECAs, particularly those for member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In 2011, the United States negotiated a new Aircraft Sector Understanding to bring official ECA financing rates more in line with commercial rates, taking away incentives for credit-worthy airlines to use ECA financing. That new agreement went into effect in 2013, and we’ve seen the commercial markets respond by picking up more financing for aircraft. But U.S. leverage has waned as critics seek to have the United States unilaterally disarm its own Ex-Im activities.

While the critics focus on a few large companies that use Ex-Im services (which not only support jobs in their own companies but also in thousands of small and medium-sized companies throughout their supply chains), they ignore the nearly 90 percent of Ex-Im transactions in FY2013 – some 3,413 transactions – that directly supported small businesses. As the NAM’s new Exporters for Ex-Im blog post series will highlight in the days and weeks to come, small and medium-sized businesses make up the lion’s share of Ex-Im’s activities. Ex-Im’s support of dynamic small business exporters like Wallquest has helped small businesses enter and expand export sales – thereby growing not only their manufacturing production, but the number of their employees.

At a time when the global economy is starting to show some growth, and we know our global competitors are seeking to win every sale, the question for lawmakers voting on Ex-Im reauthorization this year is actually quite simple: Do you want foreign purchasers to buy products manufactured in the United States with U.S. workers? If so, support Ex-Im reauthorization. Manufacturers do.

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Growing Manufacturers’ Opportunities in the Asia Pacific: Seizing Huge Growth Potential

The President’s visit to Asia this week should highlight the value of strengthening trade and investment ties and identifying areas for increased commerce and cooperation throughout the Asia-Pacific region. We believe that increased American economic and commercial engagement in the Asia-Pacific is critical unlocking numerous growth opportunities for manufacturers in the United States.  The Asia-Pacific represents a huge market with an even greater growth potential that we hope the President’s trip can help catalyze.

Already, the Asia-Pacific region is a strong and growing purchaser of U.S. manufactured goods. Three of the top ten export destinations for U.S. manufactured goods are in Asia (China, Japan and South Korea). Total U.S. manufactured goods exports to Asia grew from $213.25 billion in 2009 to more than $331.56 billion in 2013. More specifically, transportation equipment exports from the United States to Asia nearly doubled from $30.21 billion in 2009 to just over $60 billion last year. Computer and electronic product exports also grew from roughly $55.61 billion in 2009 to $67.08 billion in 2013. Chemical exports to Asia also increased by $13.4 billion over the last five years.

Yet the potential for greater growth for manufacturers in the United States is substantial The Asia-Pacific region boasts nearly 60 percent of global GDP and is the fastest growing region in the global economy. The Asia-Pacific also makes up roughly half of the world’s population, making it a market ripe for more U.S. export growth.

To boost manufacturers’ export and sales opportunities in the region, more work is needed to eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers, expand commercial relationships and ensure our trading partners play by the rules of the international trading system. The United States is seeking to negotiate a comprehensive, high standard and market-opening Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement that would include our Asia-Pacific partners (Australia, Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Vietnam) along with several Western Hemisphere partners (Canada, Chile, Mexico and Peru). The United States is also negotiating a bilateral investment treaty (BIT) with China, and efforts are underway to expand relationships with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). More broadly, the United States has cooperated with 20 of our Asia-Pacific trading partners through the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum to expand economic ties and develop stronger frameworks in numerous areas, from trade in environmental goods and transparency to creating a stronger enabling environment for infrastructure investment. At the same time, though, there are over 130 other trade agreements in the Asia-Pacific that exclude the United States and put manufacturers at a substantial disadvantage in other Asian markets.

To move successful trade negotiations forward and eliminate the competitive disadvantage that manufacturers in the United States face in many Asian markets, enactment of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) is critical. Both the President and Congress need to work closely together to move a strong TPA bill. In January, the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act was introduced to facilitate the negotiation and implementation of comprehensive and ambitious trade agreements and require intensive consultations throughout the negotiating process. Despite repeated calls by manufacturers and the broader business community, no further action has been taken on this or any other TPA legislation. To grow substantial new commercial opportunities in the Asia-Pacific, action on TPA is critical.

As Commerce Secretary Pritzker so aptly stated in a speech last week at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies: “We can act now to advance American values and interests in setting the rules for trade in a region representing 40 percent of the world’s economy, or we can let others with different values and interests take the lead.” Manufacturers agree that the time is now for the United States to lead in this region, where significant growth opportunities are awaiting U.S. exporters.

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Exporters for Ex-Im: Bank Key To Wallpaper Company’s Growth

As the world’s economy strengthens and competition for global consumers intensifies, ensuring U.S. companies have the ability to tap into that growing market is becoming increasingly more important. With 95 percent of consumers existing outside of our country’s borders, foreign companies are quickly seeking new ways to dominate the marketplace and undercut their U.S. counterparts.

Fortunately, U.S. manufacturers are up for the challenge and, given the slow turnaround of our own country’s economy in recent years, are increasingly relying on exports to faster-growing markets around the world in order to continue to grow and produce jobs. In 2012, manufactured goods exports reached a record $1.35 trillion. Today more than a quarter of everything we make in the U.S. is sold overseas and according to the White House, one in three U.S. manufacturing jobs depends on exports.

One of the main elements fostering this impressive growth is the support of the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. (Ex-Im Bank), which offers financing for American companies to export their goods and services, often when American creditors will not. This is essential to ensuring U.S. companies are properly equipped to compete with International businesses, many of whom are receiving aggressive government support ranging from development funding to export financing.

For the Pennsylvania-based manufacturer, Wallquest, this certainly rings true. A family-owned company since 1985, Wallquest is one of the larger wallpaper manufacturers in the U.S. Though still considered a relatively small manufacturer, the company’s dedication to creating a quality, innovative product while preserving traditional standards has helped secure their competitive advantage within the global home furnishings sector. Today, 90 percent of their American-made products are sold overseas.

Much of the company’s growth has occurred in the past few years as they were able to expand their customer base within international markets. In 2008, at the time the company began receiving financing from the Ex-Im Bank, they were 80 employees strong. In large part due to this financial support, the company was able to lower their cost of capital and open up a new, expanded market for foreign customers. Just four years later, in 2012 Wallquest reached 185 employees and today are looking to expand even further.

Jack Collins, vice president of Wallquest said, “Today we are selling wallpaper in 61 different countries. The Ex-Im Bank’s working capital programs played a key part in financing our company’s growth.” Beyond the company’s own growth, Collins also acknowledges the other domestic sectors of the economy that benefit, from the raw material suppliers to the professional services such as accountants and lawyers.

Wallquest is just one of over 3,400 small businesses that are prospering and helping to create U.S. jobs because of the support of the Ex-Im Bank. As Members of Congress consider the Bank’s reauthorization this September, it is critical that they recognize why companies like Wallquest deserve a level playing field to continue to grow our economy and contribute to America’s future.

“Exporters for Ex-Im” is a blog series focused on the importance of the Export-Import Bank to manufacturers. To learn more or to tell Congress you support reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, visit http://www.nam.org/Issues/Trade/Ex-Im-Bank.aspx.  

 

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Manufacturers Cite a Rebound in Activity in Richmond Fed District

The Richmond Federal Reserve Bank said that manufacturing activity in its District rebounded in April after contracting in both February and March. The composite index increased from -7 in March to 7 in April as manufacturers have begun to recover from weather-related weaknesses. The pace of new orders (up from -9 to 10) and shipments (up from -9 to 6) both picked up for the month, helping to lead to the overall index higher. Capacity utilization returned to growth, but just barely (up from -14 to 1), suggesting some stabilization.

With that said, the index for the average workweek was unchanged (2), and employment growth remained weak, but fortunately positive (up from zero to 4).

Looking forward six months, manufacturers in the region remained mostly upbeat about the future, but eased somewhat in April. For instance, the index for expected new orders dropped from 30 to 21. Still, this suggests relatively strong growth in sales over the coming months, with similar optimism for shipments, utilization, hiring, and capital spending. In all, it indicates that manufacturing leaders in the Richmond Fed District are hopeful in their overall outlook despite the slippage in the forward-looking measures in this survey.

Meanwhile, pricing pressures are anticipated to be quite minimal. The prices paid for raw materials edged down from 0.85 percent at the annual rate in March to 0.78 percent in April. Likewise, final goods prices rose just 0.30 percent, down from the 0.32 growth rate the month before. Pricing pressures six months from now also eased, down from 1.81 percent to 1.32 percent.

Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.

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Leading Economic Indicators Increased at Fastest Pace in Four Months

The Conference Board said that the Leading Economic Index (LEI) rose 0.8 percent in March, extending the 0.5 percent gain observed in February. It was the fastest pace since November, and more than anything, it suggests that the U.S. economy has begun to move beyond the weather-related softness of December and January. This rebound was most notable in the variable for the average workweek of production workers, which added 0.26 percentage points to headline figure and offset declines from December to February. Yet, new manufacturing data were somewhat mixed, but a small positive on net.

Other positive contributors to the LEI included favorable credit conditions, initial jobless claims, the stock market, and the interest rate spread. At the same time, building permits and consumer confidence provided small drags to the LEI.

Meanwhile, the Coincident Economic Index (CEI), which assesses current conditions, was up 0.2 percent in March. It was the second straight monthly increase, down from 0.4 percent in February. All four components were higher for the month. This included industrial production, which rose 0.7 percent in March and added 0.11 percentage points to the CEI. Other contributors which added to the CEI were nonfarm payrolls, personal income, and manufacturing and trade sales.

In general, the Conference Board’s report is good news for the economy over the coming months, with the rebound a sign of strength moving forward.

Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.

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Monday Economic Report – April 21, 2014

Here is the summary for this week’s Monday Economic Report:

The Federal Reserve Board’s April Beige Book brought new evidence that the moderate economic recovery is getting back on track as the impact of the harsh winter weather abates. Manufacturing improved in most of the Federal Reserve’s 12 districts, growing at a “steady pace” in New York, Atlanta, St. Louis and Dallas, and gaining “some momentum” in San Francisco. The transportation sector strengthened, with the outlook described as optimistic. Reports on both residential and commercial construction showed that the sector continues to improve, albeit slowly; this was consistent with the moderate pickup in housing starts, from 920,000 in February to 946,000 in March. Consumer spending increased in most districts, confirming that the resilience of the household sector remains a key driver of the recovery. The Beige Book also indicated that price and wage pressures remain limited. This supports the majority view of the Federal Open Market Committee that there is still sufficient slack in the labor market to warrant an accommodative monetary policy for some time.

The Philadelphia Federal Reserve’s Business Outlook Survey painted a similar picture, confirming a pickup in manufacturing activity following weather-related weakness the previous month, and with respondents optimistic that growth would continue over the coming months. Demand for manufactured goods rose, with the new orders index at +5.7 compared to February’s -5.2; shipments also increased. Employment levels were steady, but the survey recorded a more optimistic outlook here as well, with the percentage of firms expecting higher employment rising to 34 percent compared to February’s 27 percent. Just under half of firms polled expected higher capital spending this year compared to 2013, with one-fifth expecting a lower level. Firms not planning to increase capital spending cited low growth, low capacity utilization and limited need to replace capital and technology equipment. Overall, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve survey and the Beige Book confirm that the recovery is gaining more traction, but also suggest it will take longer for the pace of activity to accelerate in a more decisive manner.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen underscored the benign inflation scenario in a speech at the Economic Club of New York—her second public speech since assuming the Federal Reserve’s leadership. Asked whether the Federal Reserve would be prepared to let inflation drift above 2 percent in order to provide additional support to the recovery, Yellen noted that the risks are still skewed toward inflation being too low, not too high, and the Federal Reserve’s challenge for the time being is to bring inflation up and closer to the 2 percent target. She also pointed out that this low inflation environment currently characterizes not just the United States, but other main advanced economies, notably Japan and Europe, where the European Central Bank is debating possible additional monetary stimulus. Yellen stressed, however, that the Federal Reserve is well aware that overshooting the inflation objective “can be very costly,” and will, therefore, tighten policy in a timely manner at a pace dictated by the improvement in activity and employment. Unwinding monetary stimulus at the right pace is essential to the recovery’s sustainability, and the Federal Reserve will keep striving to guide market expectations to minimize the risks of sudden adjustments in market interest rates during the transition.

Inflation, meanwhile, edged up in March, with the headline Consumer Price Index (CPI) rising to 1.5 percent year-over-year compared to 1.1 percent in February, driven by increases in the prices of food, natural gas and electricity, partially compensated by a drop in gasoline prices. Core CPI inflation, calculated by stripping out the more volatile energy and food components, rose to 1.7 percent year-over-year from February’s 1.6 percent. The Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of inflation, however—the change in the Personal Consumption Expenditure Deflator Index—is significantly lower and stood at 0.9 percent in February (the March figure has not yet been released).

This week will allow us to take the pulse of global manufacturing, with the Markit Flash Manufacturing PMIs for the United States, China and the Eurozone. The reading for China will be followed especially closely, given that an intensification of China’s slowdown might have repercussions on global demand for commodities. The durable goods report will offer another important gauge of the pace of the recovery and the health of demand for manufacturing in the United States. Other highlights include new home sales and the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index.

Many thanks to General Electric Chief Economist Marco Annunziata for compiling this week’s Monday Economic Report.

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Feds Need to Stop Dragging Feet in Energy Permitting

Just last week, the Congressional Research Service issued a report on “U.S. Crude Oil and Natural Gas Production in Federal and Non-Federal Areas.” This thirteen page report looked at the question of how much oil and gas is produced on federal lands as opposed to non-federal (state and private) lands. The energy and manufacturing sectors have maintained for the last several years that the uptick in energy production has occurred primarily on private and state lands, while production on federal lands has dropped by almost 11 percent since 2009.

The CRS report identifies several reasons for this drop in production, but the energy sector will tell you that much of this can be attributed to moratoriums, de facto moratoriums, delays in obtaining permits, and the regulatory uncertainty created by this administration and the economy. According to the report, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) took an average of 127 days to process an application for permit to drill (APD) in 2006…127 days!! On the other hand, state Permits on state and private lands can take a little as five days.

Despite the federal government dragging their feet on permitting and energy production, the shale gas revolution has continued to thrive on private lands, resulting in an significant uptick in production and causing many manufacturers to relocate or build facilities in the United States. The results have been an increase in jobs, lower dependence on foreign energy and a more globally competitive U.S. manufacturing sector. Further, growth in the energy and manufacturing sectors has helped reduce our trade deficit.

We need the federal government to be strong partners as we work to rebuild our economy and become more energy independent. Overregulation, moratoriums, and slow federal permitting processes only serve to stifle this important growth.

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We wish we were making this up: Federal Government has no idea how it is managing environmental reviews

A new report on the Obama Administration admits a stunning lack of oversight of our nation’s bedrock environmental law, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA is the law that requires all major projects — think highways, bridges, pipelines, transmission lines — to submit to a comprehensive review of their potential environmental impacts prior to construction. NEPA is often the largest, costliest, most time-consuming regulatory hurdle developers face before they can build. It also is a common target for abuse, as there are countless ways to throw a wrench in the process and make the review take even longer (see XL, Keystone). The longer the delay, the more likely the developer walks away. Project opponents don’t even need a “win” on NEPA to win; the delay is often enough.

The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) administers NEPA, and for the past few years has assured us that it is best suited to streamline the environmental review process. Today’s report shows CEQ hasn’t even been watching. Consider what the General Accountability Office (GAO) found:

  • The Administration does not have accurate data on the number or type of environmental reviews conducted each year.
  • The Administration does not know how much it spends on environmental reviews, or how much typical environmental reviews cost.
  • The Administration has no idea how long a typical NEPA review takes. GAO instead cites to a nonprofit group, the National Association of Environmental Professionals (NAEP). NAEP estimates that the average environmental impact statement (EIS) takes 4.6 years, the highest it’s ever been. NAEP also estimates that the time to complete an EIS increased by 34.2 days each year from 2000 through 2012.
  • The Administration thinks the majority of NEPA reviews are the shorter Environmental Assessments (EA) or Categorical Exclusions (CE), but it really doesn’t have any data.
  • No government-wide system exists to track NEPA litigation or its associated costs.
  • Delays sometimes occur because agencies assume they will be sued and spend more time making the review “litigation-proof.” Yet there is no evidence that these efforts actually improve the review document.

The White House opposed efforts to streamline NEPA in a bill passed by the House last month. Yet the President promised again this year that he would cut the red tape plaguing these reviews. How in heavens name is the Administration properly able to cure what ails NEPA when they’ve made no attempt whatsoever to diagnose the problem?

It’s time for Congress to step in here. Please.

 

 

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Just What the Doctor Ordered

Last Friday President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Narayana Kocherlokata (Ph.D.), noted in a speech that, “the future course of the U.S. economy is not predetermined by the events of the past seven years. Both history and theory have the same lesson: It is possible to undo what might now appear to be permanent changes.” The way that he proposes to do this is by reducing he suggests is by, “reducing the tax rate on the process of transforming current goods into future goods. In practice, the government can accomplish such a reduction in a relatively targeted fashion by allowing businesses to completely expense any investments into equipment, structures, or R&D.” Doing so, “leads to a higher rate of capital accumulation, which stimulates future economic activity by lowering the future costs of production,” something all manufacturers agree is critical.

This particularly timely prescription for economic recovery comes just days after two bills were introduced to make two critical, pro-investment incentives permanent, H.R. 4457, by Reps. Tiberi (R-OH) and Kind (D-WI) to permanently extend increased Section 179 expensing and H.R. 4438 to simplify and make permanent the research credit introduced by Reps. Brady (R-TX) and Larson (D-CT. These bills are just what the Ph.D. ordered.

The NAM has long supported the extension of enhanced Section 179 expensing and the bill introduced by Reps. Tiberi and Kind would take this one step further and make this important pro-growth, pro-investment incentive permanent. The expiration of the enhanced Section 179 at the end of 2013 has put investment decisions on hold for many small and medium sized manufacturers who do not know what tax provisions may be in place by the end of this year. H.R. 4457 would raise the cap for Section 179 expensing from $25,000 where it is today to $500,000 with a $2 million phase out. Making this provision a permanent part of the tax code will help these manufacturers invest and compete but it will also help those manufacturers whose customers rely on enhanced Section 179 to help defray the tax cost of their investment.

Likewise, the R&D tax credit is a proven incentive for spurring private-sector investment in R&D and creating domestic, high-wage R&D jobs, as 70% of credit dollars are used to pay the salaries of high-skilled R&D workers. For manufacturers, R&D fuels innovation that translates into new product development and increased productivity—two key factors necessary for growth in manufacturing. Unfortunately, the credit has never been a permanent part of the tax code since it was first enacted in 1981, and Congress recently allowed the R&D Credit to expire on December 31, 2013, creating unnecessary uncertainty for American manufacturers. The NAM supports the strengthened, permanent R&D credit provided in H.R. 4438, which will enhance the credit’s incentive value and increase U.S. competiveness in the global race for R&D investment dollars.

So while not full expensing, by seeking to make these important policies permanent, these two measures would go a long way towards injecting some certainty and growth into our still lagging economy and would be actions manufacturers would certainly applaud.

Carolyn Lee is Senior Director of Tax Policy for the National Association of Manufacturers.

Christina Crooks is Director of Tax Policy for the National Association of Manufacturers.

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