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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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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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KORUS Agreement Has Shown Strong Results on Two-Year Anniversary

March 15th marked the two-year anniversary of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement’s (KORUS FTA) entry into force and the facts are clear. Despite what some trade critics say, exports of U.S. manufactured goods to Korea have increased.  Thanks to KORUS, more than 95 percent of U.S. industrial and consumer goods are entering the Korean market duty-free, and as a result, exports of U.S. manufactured goods to Korea have gone up 3.1 percent or $1 billion since the agreement was implemented. Specifically, exports of electrical equipment, appliances and other components jumped 22.5 percent and exports of pharmaceuticals experienced a huge increase of 52 percent! Moreover, U.S. manufactured goods saw an increase in exports to Korea of 9.2% from January 2013 to January 2014, while manufactured goods exports from Korea to the U.S. only increased 3.1 percent.

The U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) Office released a fact sheet on the enhanced opportunities the KORUS agreement has created over the last two years. “In its second year, this landmark agreement continues to provide tangible benefits for American businesses, workers, and farmers exporting to our sixth-largest trading partner,” USTR stated.  As USTR notes, the overall U.S.-Korea trade balance has been negatively impacted by decreases in corn and fossil fuel exports due to the U.S. drought in 2012, but those events are unrelated to the agreement’s implementation. USTR also noted slowed economic growth in Korea over the past two years was associated with decreased demand for all of its imports – not just those from the United States. In addition, the European Union’s free trade agreement with Korea entered into in July 2011, so it is likely that manufacturers in the EU had the advantage of moving their products into Korea’s market first.  As the global economy continues to improve, we hope to see even stronger U.S. exports to Korea.

At the same time, the NAM is working closely with our members, USTR and the Korean government to resolve some key issues with KORUS implementation including customs issues for certain U.S. exports to Korea and an array of non-tariff barriers, especially in the auto sector, which greatly impede manufacturers’ access to the Korean market. Last week, Korean ambassador to the United States Ahn Ho-young expressed a commitment to addressing any outstanding issues with implementation of the KORUS agreement. It is critical that Korea remain focused on resolving these challenges and that the Korean government continue working with the U.S. government to respond to market access concerns from manufacturers in the United States – especially if it is serious about seeking accession to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.

Additionally, more work needs to be done to ensure that manufacturers in the United States are aware of the new export opportunities in Korea resulting from the KORUS FTA. Manufacturers can visit FTA Tariff Tool to determine tariff levels for their exports to Korea.

While it’s still too early to determine the full impact of KORUS on U.S. manufactured goods exports, a closer look at the numbers reveal that they are headed in the right direction, and manufacturers believe that continued cooperation with Korea will only strengthen our economic ties and expand the benefits of the KORUS agreement.

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NAM Applauds Critical Step Taken by the Pacific Alliance

The NAM welcomes this week’s announcement by the Pacific Alliance – Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru – that they have signed an agreement to eliminate tariffs on 92 percent of goods. The other 8 percent of tariff eliminations will be phased in over time. The Alliance of these Latin American nations was kicked off in April 2011 and formalized in June 2012. Together, these four countries comprise 210 million people – more than a third of Latin America’s population and more than Brazil’s. Combined they boast an economic output of 35 percent of Latin America and the Caribbean’s GDP and roughly 50 percent of Latin America’s trade flows. The Alliance’s objectives include economic integration and a gradual move towards the free circulation of goods, services, capital and persons. But perhaps one of the Alliance’s primary goals is to deepen the region’s trade ties with Asia, whose markets are rapidly expanding.

This critical first step by the Alliance is substantial and much needed in a region where trade-liberalization has been under attack in recent years. For example, Argentina has broken a number of its core WTO commitments and the United States, Canada and others have a pending WTO case against them. There are also ongoing concerns about Brazil’s use of localization requirements to effectively close its market to U.S. and other exports. The four members of the Pacific Alliance, on the other hand, have long supported the ideals of free trade and market-opening agreements.

The Pacific Alliance is being characterized as a living agreement and Costa Rica has indicated its intention to sign on as a full member. A prerequisite of acceding to the Alliance is having free trade agreements in force with the other members. While Costa Rica has agreements with all four, its deal with Colombia has not yet been implemented. Notably, the United States has observer status, along with 22 other nations, including Germany, Great Britain, and Italy which will not be allowed to join as full members as they fail to meet the second requirement, which is having a coastline on the Pacific.

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Congress Needs to Act NOW on the MTB

Tomorrow marks an unfortunate anniversary for manufacturers in America.  400 days will have passed without Congressional action on the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB).

For three decades, Congress has supported manufacturing in America by suspending import taxes on necessary manufacturing inputs and raw materials that are not available in the United States and must be imported from other countries. The last MTB enacted into law expired on December 31, 2012, which has resulted in significantly higher costs and in some cases, reduced hours for workers and even layoffs.

The MTB strengthens manufacturers’ global competitiveness by cutting their production costs. Doing so supports thousands of domestic manufacturing jobs. In fact, the MTB enacted in 2010 was estimated to support 90,000 jobs, increase U.S. production by $4.6 billion and expand U.S. GDP by $3.5 billion. Moreover, failure to pass a new MTB will result in a staggering $748 million tax hike on manufacturing over the next three years. This translates into a whopping $1.857 billion in economic losses. Manufacturers across a broad range of industries are already paying this $748 million tax and are calling on Congress to act as swiftly as possible on this commonsense, bipartisan and jobs-supporting legislation.

Numerous manufacturers, like Glen Raven in Burlington, North Carolina, rely on the MTB in order to make their products here in the United States. The President and CEO of Glen Raven, Leib Ohmig, recently shared with the NAM the importance of the MTB to his business: “Glen Raven is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of performance fabrics used in the furniture, automotive, safety, marine and sun shade industries. Since the raw materials required to manufacture these fabrics are no longer available in the United States, Glen Raven relies on the MTB to ensure these inputs can be sourced competitively. The expiration of the MTB has resulted in a significant tax on American manufacturing and made companies less competitive in the global marketplace. Glen Raven urges Congress to promptly pass the MTB as a means to spur much needed job creation and economic growth in the United States.”

DuPont also relies heavily on the MTB for their crop protection business. James Hay, Business Director for DuPont Crop Protection, North America said, “Duty suspensions increase the competitiveness of our U.S. manufacturing base by lowering our input costs and providing us the tools to sustain U.S. production. Lower manufacturing costs provide opportunities for business growth to support our company’s mission of sustainable growth.”

For companies like Glen Raven, DuPont, Lasko Products, BASF, Bayer CropScience and many others, the MTB is critical to keeping their costs low, enhancing their competitiveness in the global market, and most importantly, to sustaining and growing manufacturing jobs here in the United States.

Congressional action on this critical jobs bill is long overdue.  Tell Congress to ACT NOW!

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Manufacturers Welcome Environmental Goods Talks at WTO

On Friday the United States, European Union, China and several other countries announced negotiations to expand global trade in green goods. The nations are exploring opportunities to reduce tariffs on environmental products, building on the APEC List of 54 Environmental Goods, through negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO).  Negotiations that result in the elimination of tariffs on environmental technologies would significantly help manufacturers of innovative products cut their costs and would improve access to cutting edge technologies for countries all over the world.

Some countries currently apply tariffs as high as 35 percent on environmental goods.  The nations entering into the green goods talks make up 86 percent of the global market in environmental goods, and global trade in environmental goods is worth an estimated $955 billion. Efforts to liberalize trade with respect to these products will have a substantial impact on manufacturers in the United States who develop and produce products aimed at solving environmental challenges, enhancing their ability to minimize costs and create new manufacturing jobs.

Green goods negotiations are part of an effort to build on the WTO’s success in concluding negotiations on a Customs and Trade Facilitation agreement at last year’s Bali Ministerial Round.  Manufacturers applaud continued efforts by the WTO to multilaterally liberalize trade but cutting and eliminating tariffs and working to remove non-tariff barriers that stifle trade and economic growth and it is critical that WTO negotiators from all countries at the table seek to build consensus on a list of goods that would have a commercially meaningful impact on trade in green goods.

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Third Round of Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Talks Kick Off in Washington This Week

U.S. and European negotiators have been meeting this week in the third round of Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) talks. The United States and the European Union (EU) already have the world’s largest commercial relationship, accounting for nearly half of global economic output. Despite these robust commercial ties, manufacturers see tremendous opportunities to strengthen further the U.S.-EU economic relationship.

The T-TIP agreement has the potential to boost economic growth and jobs on both sides of the Atlantic, and to demonstrate the strong leadership of the United States and the EU to the rest of the world. Manufacturers have a number of priorities in these negotiations.  During today’s T-TIP stakeholder event, I discussed a few key areas of importance to manufacturers: regulatory cooperation, investment, customs & trade facilitation, cross-border data flows, and privacy issues.

Among the NAM’s primary objectives regarding regulatory issues are to strengthen transparency and public participation in the process of developing rules and regulations, as well as remove unnecessary regulatory barriers to trade and prevent future divergence between EU and U.S. regulations, where appropriate. Regulatory barriers not only limit market access, but also substantially increase costs for both U.S. and EU manufacturers, undermining their global competitiveness. We urge negotiators to work with specific industry sectors to identify areas where greater cooperation is possible, and emphasize that work to eliminate unnecessary regulatory divergences and prevent future divergences must be demand-driven.

While the United States and EU already share a vibrant cross-border investment relationship, the NAM also places a high priority on continuing to promote strong cross-border investment through the adoption of strong and enforceable rules in the T-TIP.  Such rules reflect core rule of law principles found both in the U.S. and EU and should also set a strong precedent for negotiations with third countries.

Manufacturers also strongly believe that the T-TIP agreement should reduce the cost of business operations and processing through improved customs and trade facilitation provisions. The agreement should include a robust de minimis level to enhance opportunities for small and medium sized companies and incorporate other rules to enhance trade flows and reduce red tape.

In addition, the T-TIP should ensure that cross border data flows are permitted while also safeguarding IP rights, and to prohibit localization requirements to use local information infrastructure to conduct business. Manufacturers are increasingly using digital platforms to reach new customers and to produce more efficiently around the world.  The T-TIP needs to incorporate rules that promote opportunities in an increasingly digital economy.

A growth-producing U.S.-EU agreement will enhance efficiency for manufacturers, and will not impose rules or standards that would undermine innovation and thwart economic growth. The need for a meaningful transatlantic trade agreement has never been greater and the NAM strongly urges negotiators to take full advantage of the momentum that has been created over the last two years, to produce an agreement with the strongest economic outcomes possible.

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It’s Time to Renew the Generalized System of Preferences

The Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) expired on July 31 of this year and an act of Congress is required to restore these trade benefits. GSP is a tremendously important U.S. trade preference program created to promote economic growth in developing countries through trade. Because of the duty-savings on imports from GSP beneficiaries, many manufacturers in the United States have an incentive to purchase raw materials and inputs from these developing countries. Without GSP, many manufacturers’ costs are higher and their competitiveness undermined. It is due time that Congress move forward on this bipartisan initiative.

GSP is particularly important for manufacturers who cannot source inputs domestically.  Over the years, GSP has helped promote growth and development in the world’s poorest economies by providing unilateral duty-free treatment for up to 5,000 products from 126 countries, while also reducing prices for U.S. producers and consumers. In exchange for receiving GSP benefits, participating countries must meet certain mandatory eligibility criteria.

Manufacturers have been operating without GSP for nearly five months, resulting in significantly higher production costs. Momentive, for example, is a $7.5 billion American manufacturer of specialty chemicals and performance materials with business evenly divided among the U.S., Europe, and Asia.  Momentive develops and produces high-performance resins, silicones and other advanced materials and has a presence in 21 states and in 28 countries worldwide.  Their products are manufactured in New York, Ohio, West Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, Oregon, Indiana and California, and they employ 4,000 people in R&D, manufacturing, marketing, sales and administration in the United States.

“The GSP program helps us remain competitive by lowering the costs of raw materials,” said Roger McCrary, Vice President for Global Trade Management at Momentive. “Our ability to remain an innovative, cutting-edge American company requires access to affordable raw materials. With the increase in tariffs resulting from GSP’s expiration, we need to cut from other parts of our budget, such as R&D. That has an impact on our bottom line and future products. We hope that Congress will resolve the political fight on funding offsets so this tax on raw materials can be removed.”

With the manufacturing sector facing ongoing economic challenges, passing GSP is one small step Congress can take to improve manufacturers’ competitiveness and cut their production costs.  We strongly urge the Senate and House to work collaboratively to identify an offset for GSP that allows its bipartisan passage through Congress as expeditiously as possible.

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Trading Up: Improved Customs Processes, Appropriate De Minimis Commitments and Overall Trade Facilitation are Critical to Growing Exports in the Asia Pacific

As Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiators continued significant intercessional discussions this week, manufacturers are focused on their priority issue areas in the 12-country trade talks, from market access to strong protections for intellectual property (IP) and cross-border data flows.  Another key component of growing U.S. exports and one that must be addressed in the final TPP agreement is cutting red-tape at the border and improving customs processes and rules.

The elimination of red-tape at the border would have a significant impact on improving opportunities through trade. A recent World Economic Forum (WEF) study found that reducing global supply chain barriers could increase world GDP by nearly 5% and boost international trade by nearly 15%!

Manufacturers are increasingly linked to a global web of interconnected supply chains. Inputs, materials and components come from all over the world to create products with the greatest value for consumers. As a result, 56% of all international trade today is in intermediate goods – semi-finished products and other inputs.

TPP negotiators should include in the final text of the agreement as many provisions aimed at easing trade facilitation and minimizing customs burdens as possible. Doing so would greatly enhance the tangible outcomes of the TPP agreement.

In addition, unnecessary red-tape can increase transit times, which can disproportionally impact small- and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs) and increase production costs. One of the most essential provisions in this regard is agreeing to appropriate de minimis standards – basically setting a value below which no duty or tax is charged and clearance procedures, including data requirements, are minimal. To help SMM growth through trade, TPP negotiators should ease the burden of customs paperwork that SMMs face with even low-value shipments of necessary manufacturing inputs. Negotiators can achieve this objective by increasing the de minimis threshold, which would greatly benefit SMMs by stimulating their output.

According to a 2003 paper by the OECD, which recommends the adoption of de minimis thresholds, firms with fewer than 250 employees face trade transaction costs that are 30-45 percent higher than those incurred by larger firms because they don’t have the same “simplified procedures” that large companies implement. These transaction costs become more important during periods of economic turmoil, when SMMs are even more vulnerable to cost burdens. Appropriate de minimis thresholds abroad can also benefit U.S. exporters who are shipping directly to foreign consumers or supplying to foreign companies.

A commercially meaningful de minimis threshold also creates efficiencies at CBP that can benefit manufacturers of all sizes. Collecting duty revenue involves manpower on the part of CBP, and the costs of collecting duties on low-value goods often exceeds the revenue generated from those tariffs.

TPP partners should stay at the table to ensure that the TPP negotiations yield the “comprehensive, next-generation regional agreement that liberalizes trade and investment and addresses new and traditional trade issues and 21st-century challenges” that TPP leaders called for two years ago. Manufacturers look forward to an ambitious, high-standard and comprehensive agreement that includes strong customs and trade facilitation provisions to ensure that transaction costs and burdens are reduced, easing the flow of goods across borders, and improving the competitiveness of manufacturers big and small throughout the United States.

Trading Up is a blog series from manufacturers, which focuses on the need for a comprehensive, high-standard Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that eliminates barriers, creates concrete new market access and levels the playing field for manufacturers in the United States.


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Time is Running Out for Congress to Act on the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB)

As time on the legislative calendar runs low, one of the easiest and most bipartisan ways for Congress to support manufacturing jobs in the United States is to pass the MTB, which expired 316 days ago.

Up until 2010, Congress had supported manufacturing for thirty years by suspending import taxes on necessary manufacturing inputs that are not available in the United States and must be imported from other countries. Congress has normally done so by voice vote but unfortunately 3 years ago, the linkage was erroneously made between the MTB and Congressional earmarks, which have been banned by Capitol Hill.

The NAM has long believed that the tariff-eliminating provisions contained in the MTB are not at all earmarks. For one thing, they are not directed spending. Instead, they amend the Harmonized Tariff Schedule which applies to all importers – which means they are not limited benefits, either.  So, while some in Congress continue contemplating whether these tax-cutting and job-supporting provisions meet the definition of an earmark, manufacturers in the United States are paying what will amount to a $748 million tax hike which greatly damages their global competitiveness and hinders their ability to retain and create new jobs.

Even well-known conservative leaders and staunch earmark opponents like Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist agree that the duty suspensions are not at all earmarks. In yesterday’s Washington Times piece entitled “Cutting job-killing tariffs,” Mr. Norquist aptly points out that tariffs are taxes and therefore, the MTB is a package of tax cuts. Period. The longer Congress takes to act, the longer manufacturers will be paying a quarter of a billion dollars annually on manufacturing inputs that aren’t even available domestically.  It’s just that simple.

Congress continues to delay action on this critically important bill despite the fact that it enjoys broad bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress and in fact, the House introduced H.R. 2708, the U.S. Job Creation and Manufacturing Competitiveness Act earlier this year.

Now both the House and Senate must act expeditiously to pass this critical legislation and give manufacturers the tariff relief they need to enhance their competitiveness, create jobs and invest in their U.S.-based manufacturing. The 2010 MTB passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 378-43 and in the Senate by unanimous consent – hardly evidence of a controversial measure.  It’s time for Congress to put their earmark-related questions aside and pass this commonsense, bipartisan jobs bill.

As Mr. Norquist states, the MTB “is a pro-growth tax cut, with broad support that helps American businesses to compete. Let’s pass it.”  It is long past due time to move this bill.


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