Senate Finance Chair Releases New Trade Legislation

On Tuesday, May 18, Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) released legislation that would bring back multiple tariff-reduction programs, designed to make some imports less expensive for U.S. firms and to promote trade with developing countries.

The Trade Preferences and American Manufacturing Competitiveness Act would reinstate three key pieces of legislation. It would reinstitute the Generalized System of Preferences until 2027, which has been in place since 1974, eliminating tariffs on imports from countries in need of an economic boost. It expired in December, when the two parties could not agree on provisions related to human rights and the environment.

The legislations would also reinstate the currently-expired Miscellaneous Tariff Bill, which allows the government to temporarily reduce or suspend duties on imports that cannot be readily found in the U.S. or when tariffs would cause a significant revenue hit. This bill would be reinstated until 2023 and apply retroactively for four months.

The third piece of legislation that this act would reinstate is the American Manufacturing Competitiveness Act. The measure would be reauthorized for two cycles, beginning in 2022 and 2025, granting the U.S. International Trade Commission authority to conduct the review process when U.S. companies request relief under the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill.

Some of the provisions which caused partisan disagreements late last year reappear in the new legislation released by Chairman Wyden. The legislation would require eligible countries to achieve certain environmental protection and human rights standards before benefitting from tariff relief included in the bill. It would also suggest that countries meet optional requirements for women’s economic empowerment, the rule of law, and digital trade.

Finally, the bill would require a yearly review of eligible countries from the administration and a report to Congress outlining the decision-making process of choosing the eligible trading partners. It remains unclear if Republicans, including Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), will be on board with supporting the legislation, this year.

It is expected that Chairman Wyden will soon release another trade legislation proposal with the aim of making U.S. trade policy more competitive with China. That bill is expected to draw bipartisan support.