President Obama will host a White House bill-signing ceremony at 2:50 p.m. today to sign H.R. 4380, the United States Manufacturing Enhancement Act, more commonly known as the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill.
This bill reduces tariffs for materials and chemicals that are essential for U.S. manufacturing processes but are not made or otherwise available in the United States. As the National Association of Manufacturers’ “Key Vote” letter summarized:
The MTB is one of the most important short-term actions Congress can take to preserve and expand good American jobs, cut the costs of doing business in the United States and boost American manufacturing exports. U.S. manufacturers large and small use the MTB’s tariff suspension provisions to obtain raw materials, proprietary inputs and other products that are not available in our nation.
Without the MTB, the cost of these companies’ products will inevitably increase, forcing them to pass higher costs on to consumers and making their products less competitive. These higher costs translate into lost jobs for American workers.
Passage of the bill was complicated this year by political disputes over the nature of “earmarks” in the House, but H.R. 4380 still passed handily, 378-43, on July 21. The legislation’s signing into law today is terrific news for manufacturers and America’s workers.
But it is just one piece of a pro-jobs, pro-growth agenda. Depicting the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill as the foundation of a trade or manufacturing strategy is overselling it. For one thing, the legislation is about continuing tariff reductions about specific products and materials coming into the United States. The bill has never been controversial before and if considered by itself always elicits overwhelming votes of support. (See accompanying post, “Miscellaneous Tariff Bill, a Popular History.”)
More importantly, the bill does not address the lowering of trade barriers to U.S. exports shipped to foreign markets. Ninety-five percent of the world’s consumers live outside the United States, and U.S.-based companies have to compete to sell goods and services to those billions of people. That’s why it’s essential to enact agreements to lower tariffs and other barriers to U.S. exports, pacts such as the pending Free Trade Agreements with Colombia, Panama and Korea, then the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and multilateral agreements like the Doha round of the WTO.
President Obama has set a goal of doubling U.S. exports within five years, an ambitious goal that will require action on numerous fronts. The NAM recently released its “Blueprint to Double Exports in Five Years to detail the many steps — including major policy action — that Congress and the Administration must take to achieve the worthy, jobs-creating goal.
The President can be expected to highlight manufacturing and trade at the bill signing ceremony this afternoon, and manufacturers are delighted the tariff reduction bill will become law. And after that ….more work to do.