We were celebrating “Imports Work for America” week last week (see earlier posts on what imports mean for American jobs, families, manufacturing, and development). While the Chamber has long argued that boosting exports is vital to our economy, imports also play a critical role.
So how can we better ensure that imports work for America going forward? The U.S. Chamber has long argued that trading away U.S. import barriers to secure better access to foreign markets is a terrific deal. The recent trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and Korea do this admirably, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership — now under negotiation — will do so as well. The U.S. should vigorously pursue such trade agreements.
Further, the Chamber strongly supports the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill, which provides relief from tariffs levied on imported materials or intermediate products that are not produced domestically or where there is no domestic opposition. By eliminating these “tariffs nobody wants,” the MTB lowers costs and helps U.S. manufacturers maintain their competitive edge.
In addition, the Chamber has endorsed the Affordable Footwear Act (AFA), which suspends for five years U.S. tariffs on inexpensive footwear that is not manufactured in the U.S. Such footwear is often subject to very high tariffs, which represent a hidden, regressive tax on low-income Americans.
Similarly, the Chamber supports the U.S. Optimal Use of Trade to Develop Outerwear and Outdoor Recreation (OUTDOOR) Act, which eliminates tariffs on recreational performance outerwear for which there is no commercially viable production in the U.S.
Finally, trade preference programs such as the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (and its about-to-expire “third country fabric” provisions) show the value of imports as an engine of development. Congress should extend this legislation as soon as possible.
In the end, imports are important because they show that trade is a two-way street — with benefits on both sides.