Category

Trade

Manufacturers in America Need a Modernized WTO

By | General, intellectual property, Shopfloor Policy, Trade | No Comments

Manufacturers and their workers across America depend on global commerce to grow U.S. production, provide innovative and high-value products to consumers at home and abroad and create well-paying jobs at home. Consider that nearly half of U.S. manufacturing production is exported and about six million manufacturing workers depend on U.S. manufactured goods exports for their jobs.

With international trade so important to health and growth of the U.S. manufacturing sector, it is no surprise that manufacturers have long relied on and been at the forefront of promoting a strong, respected and fair rules-based global trading system. Under the current system, embodied by the Geneva-based World Trade Organization, manufacturers in the United States have benefited broadly from the substantial reduction in tariffs and many other trade barriers in markets big and small around the world, as well as through the adoption and enforcement of stronger and fairer standards than existed before WTO was established in 1995.

Yet, the rules-based system is now at a crossroads. It has failed to deliver broad-based trade liberalization in more than 25 years, except in a few sectors, leaving substantial tariffs and other barriers in place. It has failed to update rules in important areas that are critical to a fair and fully-functioning global trading system, including on digital trade, state-led competition and other issues. Too often, countries ignore WTO requirements small and big and the dispute settlement system is overloaded and subject to serious levels of concern in the United States and elsewhere.

Manufacturers in the United States need a fully-functioning, trade-liberalizing WTO that is respected by all of its 164 members. That is why, this week, National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons and I are in Geneva to meet with senior WTO officials. During our meetings, we will focus on the need for WTO reform and modernization across a number of critical areas, including negotiations, dispute settlement and full implementation of existing WTO commitments. 

It is also critical that the WTO serve as the central voice on trade policy issues and that it proactively engages with other organizations like the World Health Organization to prevent trade-harmful policy recommendations. The NAM formed the Engaging America’s Global Leadership (EAGL) Coalition to address just such issues.

There can be no question that the WTO system is in need of reform. Manufacturers are committed to being allies in that reform process. The NAM looks forward to working with stakeholders around the world on a constructive WTO modernization agenda to strengthen the WTO as an effective rules-based system that is respected by its members, provides appropriate and strong enforcement of its rules and moves forward trade liberalization broadly.

The Time is Now for a Robust, Enforceable China Deal that Benefits Manufacturers

By | General, Shopfloor Policy, Trade | No Comments

U.S.-China trade relations are an especially hot topic this week, which is underscored by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer testifying this morning at the House Ways & Means Committee on efforts to address critical trade concerns with China. Today’s hearing follows welcome news over the weekend from President Donald Trump that he would delay scheduled tariff increases given “substantial progress” in negotiations and start planning for a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the coming weeks. Yet the work remains unfinished. As Ambassador Lighthizer meets with members of the committee to discuss the status of these talks, manufacturers are redoubling their call for the two sides to negotiate a robust deal, with a rules-based agreement that includes binding, enforceable statutes to halt unfair Chinese trade practices once and for all.

Manufacturers large and small — and policymakers from both political parties — recognize that now is a pivotal moment in U.S.-China trade relations, with a major opportunity to reset that relationship to address a wide range of longstanding issues. China is a critical market for U.S. exports: manufacturers in the United States sell more of what they make to China than to any other country outside of North America—they also rely on China for imports to help grow manufacturing opportunities for workers here in the United States. This two-way trade has clear benefits, yet for too long, China has reaped the rewards of unfair trade practices, from intellectual property theft and discriminatory industrial policies to market access barriers and excess capacity.

The National Association of Manufacturers has led the charge calling for President Trump to negotiate lasting solutions that help manufacturers compete on a level playing field. Last year, NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons wrote to President Trump urging a comprehensive, innovative bilateral trade agreement to address unfair Chinese trade policies, and manufacturers followed up later in the year with detailed negotiating priorities. Leaders in Congress have joined with the NAM in the intervening months calling for a strong deal with China. Such a meaningful outcome would also alleviate pressure for Section 301 tariffs that have caused both operational disruption and significant uncertainty for many manufacturers in ways that have impacted their competitiveness and ability to manufacture in the United States.

Since January, the two sides have had four rounds of intensive negotiations, including nearly continuous negotiations for the past three weeks. Manufacturers applaud these efforts and welcome reports that these negotiations have covered a full set of manufacturing-priority issues, seeking not just product purchases but tangible policy changes and clear enforcement mechanisms that are badly needed. Getting this work across the finish line is critical. The time is now. The opportunity is clear. Manufacturers need to see a binding, enforceable trade deal that fixes longstanding trade distortions.

 

New Interactive Tool, Developed by Esri, Visualizes Importance of NAFTA for U.S. States

By | Shopfloor Main, Trade | No Comments

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) is pleased to introduce a new NAFTA-focused web application, prepared by Esri, the world’s most advanced technology provider of GIS and location intelligence. The tool allows manufacturers, workers, policymakers and other individuals to view historical trade flows of manufactured goods across NAFTA countries, including by individual state, groups of states, by year of imports and exports and compared to global trade flows. In the near future, the web app will be expanded to include historical, interactive NAFTA import and export data, at the state level and by product category.

This interactive tool developed by Esri, together with a series of detailed state fact sheets released by the NAM on May 4, helps to underscore the importance of extensive NAFTA relationships for manufacturers of all sizes and sectors across the United States.

Innovation, Investment—Not Market Access Barriers—Must Be Pillars for U.S.–Saudi Relationship

By | General, Shopfloor Policy, Trade | No Comments

As the White House, government officials and businesses prepare for next week’s Washington visit of Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, manufacturers across America are calling upon the Saudi government to address a range of outstanding issues that are frustrating manufacturers seeking to export and grow in that market, activities that support good, high-paying jobs here at home.

The United States is Saudi Arabia’s second-largest trading partner, with nearly $35 billion in trade in 2016. In turn, Saudi Arabia is one of the United States’ largest and most important trading partners in the Middle East and the destination for more than $10 billion in investment across a range of business sectors.

Yet, manufacturers are urging the administration and others to raise outstanding commercial issues they face in Saudi Arabia that undermine that partnership and send the wrong signals about Saudi Arabia’s investment environment. Recent decisions by the Saudi Food and Drug Authority to promote local pharmaceutical manufacturing at the expense of U.S. products, for example, undermine Saudi Arabia’s attempts to promote innovation and transform its economy and raise questions about their compliance with both Saudi law and Saudi Arabia’s obligations under the World Trade Organization—questions that are important to a broad range of manufacturers, not just impacted industries.

Manufacturers also face other challenges in Saudi Arabia that directly impact manufacturing exports, such as problematic technical rules in areas from food to product testing as well as revised Saudi regulations that effectively exclude many international standards developed in the United States.

Removing these barriers and recommitting to a pro-business, pro-innovation investment environment must be a priority for these discussions. Manufacturers urge the crown prince and other members of his delegation to work within senior levels of their government to address these concerns and avoid similar steps in the future. These steps are an important part of affirming Saudi Arabia’s continued partnership with the United States.

Little Understood Government Process Could—if Congress Acts—Provide Tax Cuts for Individuals and Manufacturers

By | General, Shopfloor Policy, Taxation, Trade | No Comments

Though many don’t know it, Americans pay both directly or indirectly about $1 million a day in government-imposed import taxes on products not made or available in the United States, including everyday items like swim goggles, smartphone cases and pepperoncini. Why? It’s a long story, but it essentially comes down to the fact that the United States has a very old tariff code, and it has been nearly a decade since Congress has gotten around to addressing these unfair, out-of-date, distortive and anticompetitive taxes by passing the so-called Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB). Thankfully, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an MTB bill, the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill Act of 2018, on January 16 by a margin of 402 to 0. Now, it is the Senate’s turn to approve the legislation. It must do so without delay.

Here’s some important background on the issue.

Back in 2016, Congress took a major step toward modernizing the way products are considered under the MTB with its near unanimous passage of the American Manufacturing Competitiveness Act of 2016 (AMCA). The AMCA established a regularized process for Congress to consider the elimination of individual import taxes for products not made or available in the United States—and a few key elements from that rigorous and thorough process follow below:

  • Detailed petition. Each request for tariff suspension required a detailed petition, identifying the product and providing information that it is not produced or available in sufficient quantities in the United States. A total of 2,524 petitions were filed and reviewed in this process. (An additional 638 petitions were filed but later withdrawn.)
  • Public review, with comments. All petitions were posted online and comments were requested from the public, at the start of the process, on whether the petition met statutory requirements under the AMCA, including that there were no objections from domestic manufacturers of similar products. More than 800 comments were submitted on the petitions filed in 2017.
  • Review of all petitions for eligibility. Each of the petitions was reviewed by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) with input from the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Customs Bureau Protection and other executive branch agencies to determine if each petition met all the eligibility criteria. Several reports were released to the public summarizing these findings. Overall, more than 27 percent (or 697 petitions) were rejected as not eligible, including for reasons of domestic availability, as discussed below.
  • Broad U.S. government review of domestic production and availability. As required by the statute, the U.S. government review did not just look at identical products, but also products that were “directly competitive” with the product to ensure that no domestic industry was producing a similar product that might prefer to keep the tariff in place. U.S. government officials reviewed not only the comments received but proactively reached out to industry sectoral groups and individual businesses to ask if the same or competing product was available domestically. Nearly 500 petitions, or nearly 20 percent of the total, were not recommended by the ITC for inclusion in MTB legislation due to objections by domestic producers.

After all that work and more than nine months of engagement with stakeholders, a final package of eligible products was sent in August to the House and Senate, which also reviewed the products (with the ability only to strike products, not add them to the package). That rigorous process has produced a final MTB with nearly 1,700 products eligible for tariff elimination or reductions. Notably, such tariff relief is not permanent, as it only lasts for three years in case there are domestic manufacturers that want to produce any of these products and might prefer the application of the tariff. These products include both inputs used by many manufacturers throughout the United States (more than 75 percent of the products are inputs, according to National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) analysis), and some final goods that will directly benefit consumers and purchasers, in a manner that is fully consistent with the AMCA.

  • As one example, certain U.S. imports of performance footwear face tariffs ranging from 20 to 37.5 percent, which add unnecessary costs to U.S. consumers and harm our manufacturers and workers. Such imported performance footwear products incorporate made-in-America components, such as the GORE-TEX® laminate that is manufactured in Cecil County, Maryland. GORE-TEX® laminate is exported, incorporated into performance footwear and ultimately returns to the United States. Tariff relief for such footwear products, which are included in the MTB package, would support American jobs and incentivize continued investments in technology such as GORE-TEX.®
  • As another example, Lasko Products LLC is the only U.S. manufacturer of electric pedestal and desktop fans sold at retailers across the United States, but Lasko pays import taxes on fan motors not manufactured in the United States, making it more difficult for the company to compete with fans imported from China. These fan motors are also included in the current MTB package.

As required by international trade rules, these tariff suspensions also apply to all goods entering the United States from all countries. To do otherwise would invite retaliation and higher costs or barriers for U.S. manufacturers exporting overseas.

So, a lot of hard work has gone into addressing this issue, but we are not yet past the finish line. The NAM and manufacturers and other businesses across the United States are doubling-down to urge final congressional passage of the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill Act of 2018 as soon as possible so we can eliminate unnecessary taxes on families and manufacturers. Based on NAM analyses, the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill Act of 2018 would eliminate unnecessary import tariffs of more than $1.1 billion over three years, helping both consumers and manufacturers, with an estimated boost to U.S. manufacturing output of $3.1 billion.

The House already acted last month, and it passed this bill without a single vote in opposition. We are now urging the Senate to demonstrate its strong bipartisan support for the MTB by moving quickly to approve this important legislation.

How Scott Garrett’s Nomination to Lead the Ex-Im Bank Is Already Putting Taxpayers at Risk

By | Economy, Shopfloor Main, Shopfloor Policy, Trade | No Comments

 

We already knew confirming Scott Garrett to lead the U.S. Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank would be a terrible trade deal for American manufacturing workers. But now we’re learning even before he has had his nomination voted on in committee, Garrett is already causing problems for the agency and potentially putting taxpayers on the hook, too. As The Wall Street Journal reports today:

C.J. Hall, the government agency’s acting chairman, who is stepping down Saturday, said in an interview that the bank will likely become a drain on U.S. taxpayers next year if the Senate doesn’t act to fill its board, because it has stopped bringing in enough revenue through the fees it charges to guarantee financing deals for U.S. exporters.

The negative fiscal impact of not having a fully functioning Ex-Im Bank is deeply concerning and underscores why the agency cannot be led by someone like Garrett, who spent years trying to shut the bank down. The Wall Street Journal report also notes that Garrett currently does not have the votes to advance his nomination. So here’s the bottom line: Garrett’s toxicity is holding the confirmation process up and literally exposing taxpayers to increased federal deficits.

Given this fiscal reality and the apparent lack of votes to get Garrett’s nomination out of committee, it’s time for a new nominee to lead the Ex-Im Bank who believes in the agency’s mission and can rightfully earn senators’ support.

We need to have a stable, fully functioning Ex-Im Bank and the jobs and revenue that come along with it. A fully functioning Ex-Im Bank is good for manufacturers, good for workers and good for American global competitiveness. When fully functional, the Ex-Im Bank is a model agency that actually returns a surplus to the U.S. Treasury. As The Wall Street Journal notes:

The bank’s revenue comes primarily from its largest deals. If no such new deals are approved, the bank likely won’t be able to cover all of its expenses. Without a quorum, taxpayers also could lose out on about $492 million in surplus funds the bank projected it would otherwise send to Treasury.

That’s why the National Association of Manufacturers has steadfastly opposed Garrett’s nomination from the start and has also supported the president’s other four nominations to the Ex-Im Bank, who share the administration’s vigorous and outspoken support of American manufacturing workers and the agency.

Click here to learn more about Garrett’s reckless opposition to the Ex-Im Bank that has put manufacturing jobs in America at risk.

India’s Jump in Doing Business Report Illustrates Signs of Reform, Need for Further Trade and Investment Reforms

By | Shopfloor Policy, Trade | No Comments

According to the World Bank’s recent Doing Business report, India jumped 30 spots from last year and now ranks 100 out of 190 countries. Manufacturers in the United States are pleased to see improvements to India’s business environment as a sign of progress, but their day-to-day experience in India shows there is still much work to be done to improve India’s trade and investment environment. Such work needs to cut through the red tape that often faces manufacturers in the United States trying to succeed in India.

The Doing Business report is based on quantitative indicators related to how easy or challenging it is for companies to start and operate a business in India. These include policies and practices related to areas such as starting a business, dealing with construction and other government permits, obtaining critical business inputs ranging from credits to electricity, protecting contracts and investors, paying taxes and resolving insolvency.

To be clear, India’s jump in the rankings reflects improvements in various areas. Most of these steps primarily benefit domestic Indian entrepreneurs and businesses, but these moves did include some changes that have a direct impact on manufacturers in the United States. India’s biggest jumps this year fall in a few specific areas: “getting credit,” “resolving insolvency,” “protecting minority investors” and “paying taxes.” These jumps can largely be traced to two high-level reforms over the past year: the passage of India’s Bankruptcy Law and ongoing efforts to reform India’s complicated tax system with the passage of the goods and services tax.

Both improvements have a broad enough impact on the commercial environment that they were listed among improvements in a recent letter to United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer from business groups, such as the Alliance for Fair Trade with India, stating that “U.S. businesses have seen small positive steps in the right direction, including foreign investment openings in a few sectors, fossil fuel and energy-efficiency policy initiatives, efforts to address infrastructure project permitting and licensing challenges and passage of legislation related to bankruptcy and tax reforms.”

While manufacturers welcome these changes, India must step up its efforts to accomplish Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s repeatedly stated goal of reaching the report’s top 50. India still trails countries such as the Dominican Republic, Tunisia and Guatemala in the current rankings. Despite progress, India still ranks toward the bottom of the report in areas such as “starting a business” (156), “dealing with construction permits” (181), “registering property” (154), “trading across borders” (146) and “enforcing contracts” (164). Moreover, India fell in the rankings for some of these areas, including cross-border trade, property registration and business start-up. Many of these areas, particularly cross-border trade and enforcing contracts, rank among the most troublesome areas for manufacturers from the United States.

In addition to the focused business indicators listed in the report, manufacturers in the United States still face a wide array of longstanding and new trade barriers in India that make it extremely difficult to do business and undermine India’s efforts to rebrand itself to attract trade and investment. These trade barriers prevent fair access to its markets and ultimately stunt innovation and economic opportunities for both U.S. and Indian manufacturers. Examples of issues include new price controls on innovative medical devices and agriculture products, a series of forced localization policies across high-value industries and ineffective protection of patents, copyrights and trade secrets.

India’s efforts to climb the rankings of the Doing Business report must be applauded, but it clearly still lags behind most large economies, and even other emerging economies, such as China, in terms of its business climate. To boost foreign direct investment and truly position India as a leader in trade and innovation, Prime Minister Modi must take this jump in the rankings not as a victory lap, but as a reason to accelerate reforms and concrete actions to eliminate trade and investment barriers preventing manufacturers in the United States from investing and operating in India.

Time to Move the MTB to Boost U.S. Jobs by Cutting Another Unnecessary Tax on Manufacturing in America

By | Economy, Shopfloor Economics, Shopfloor Main, Trade | No Comments

Manufacturers across the nation are seeking action this year to boost U.S. competitiveness and cut back on unnecessary taxes that have been holding back manufacturers in the United States. In addition to the very important tax reform effort that is underway right now, the House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee will begin to review tomorrow another vehicle to eliminate out-of-date distortive taxes on manufacturers through the so-called Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB).

For years, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) has been a leading advocate in support of congressional passage of the MTB because the United States’ own tariff code is imposing anti-competitive costs on manufacturers in the United States. Since the last MTB expired at the end of 2012, manufacturers have paid billions of dollars in tariffs on products not even made in the United States to the detriment of American competitiveness and well-paying American jobs. Consider that in some cases, manufacturers in the United States are paying import taxes on components not produced domestically, while foreign producers bring their final products in duty-free. These and other historical distortions in the U.S. tariff code must be corrected to create a level playing field for manufacturers right here at home.

In 2016, the House and Senate, with near-unanimous bipartisan support, created a transparent, objective, predictable and regularized process for congressional review and consideration of the MTB through the American Manufacturing Competitiveness Act of 2016 (AMCA). Through that process, thousands of petitions were reviewed over the past year by the independent U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) and other parts of the U.S. government, and the ITC put together a final report for Congress with petitions that it deemed to meet the requirements of the AMCA. The more than 1,800 petitions to remove import tariffs on products included in the ITCs report would eliminate tariffs of more than $350 million in 2018 and more than $1 billion over the next three years.

Congress now has the opportunity to move forward on an MTB that would remove—for three years—anti-competitive border taxes on imports of products not produced or available in the United States. Consider the stories of two manufacturers:

  • Albaugh specializes in the production and packaging of post-patent crop protection products, and employs around 350 workers across the United States. Albaugh’s products are used throughout the United States by farmers who require access to competitively priced alternatives for their crop protection needs. In the past, the MTB benefited Albaugh by reducing the cost of raw materials not available domestically and enabling the company to maintain and grow jobs at its headquarters in Ankeny, Iowa, a production facility in St. Joseph, Missouri, and other locations throughout the country.
  • Glen Raven is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of performance fabrics used in the furniture, automotive, safety, marine and sunshade industries, with more than 2,000 employees in the United States. Since the raw materials required to manufacture many of these fabrics are not available in the United States, Glen Raven relies on the MTB to ensure that these materials can be sourced competitively. The expiration of the MTB in 2012 resulted in a significant increase in Glen Raven’s manufacturing costs, which made the company less competitive in the global marketplace.

Tomorrow, the House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee will hear from three additional manufacturers—Gowan USA, Lasko Products LLC and W.L. Gore & Associates—about how the MTB will help them grow manufacturing in the United States. There are many more stories like this across America, including from many small and medium-sized manufacturers, in industries ranging from chemicals and textiles to electronics, agriculture and beyond, all of which will be able to improve their competitiveness and their ability to sustain and grow well-paying American jobs with MTB passage.

The NAM applauds the Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee for holding this hearing and looks forward to working closely with both the House and Senate to move forward MTB legislation as quickly as possible, so manufacturers can knock down another anti-competitive tax.

 

 

Share