Tariff Modifications: Miscellaneous Duty Suspension Bills Page: 4 of 13
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Tariff Modifications: Miscellaneous Duty
The Constitution gives Congress the primary authority over trade policy;
therefore, Congress must approve any modifications to the Harmonized Tariff
Schedule (HTS). Constituents, often representing domestic industry associations or
manufacturers, will sometimes ask Members to introduce legislation proposing to
reduce, repeal, or temporarily suspend duties on certain imports. Since the early
1980s, the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees, the primary
committees of jurisdiction on trade matters, have tended to incorporate duty
suspensions into larger pieces of legislation known as miscellaneous trade and
technical corrections bills (MTBs). These larger trade packages include modifications
to the HTS (such as suspensions of duties on various products), specific instructions
to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) regarding certain entries of
commodities (largely where the CBP may have made an error in classification or
dealing with other technical issues in entries of goods), and minor technical
corrections to trade laws.
This report focuses briefly on recent legislative actions on duty suspensions, the
current procedure by which congressional committees evaluate and select
commodities for inclusion MTB legislation, and some of the reasons that Congress
has approved them.
Duty Suspension Legislation
The introduction of MTB legislation in its current omnibus format appears to
have originated in the 97th Congress with H.R. 4566 (Gibbons, P.L. 97-446, enacted
January 12, 1983), which proposed to "reduce certain duties, to suspend temporarily
certain duties, to extend certain existing suspensions of duties, and for other
purposes." Prior to that date, even though committee hearings were often held on
several duty suspension bills at one time, Congress many times acted on them
109th Congress Legislation
On March 10, 2005, then-House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee
Chairman E. Clay Shaw announced the subcommittee's request that all Members
submit tariff legislation or miscellaneous changes to trade laws by April 28, 2005.1
'"Shaw Requests Introduction of Miscellaneous Tariff and Duty Suspension Bills by April
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Tariff Modifications: Miscellaneous Duty Suspension Bills, report, February 5, 2007; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc808347/m1/4/: accessed October 19, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.