Today, October 14, 2016, the U.S. International Trade Commission will begin accepting petitions for duty suspensions and reductions pursuant to the new Miscellaneous Tariff Bill process. The Commission will collect petitions for a 60-day period, after which it will comments in support or opposition to the petitions received. After it has analyzed all petitions and comments, the Commission will prepare a final report to Congress recommending duty suspensions for enactment.

Miscellaneous tariff bills can be an important tool in increasing U.S. manufacturing competitiveness, by reducing the cost of inputs that cannot be found in the United States. However, the traditional process for passing Miscellaneous Tariff Bills broke down over concerns that individual, product-specific bills introduced by members of Congress on behalf of constituent manufacturers constituted “earmarks.” The new Miscellaneous Tariff Bill process, established earlier this year by the American Manufacturing Competitiveness Act of 2016, counters these concerns by taking Congress out of the process of proposing bills on individual products. Rather, the U.S. International Trade Commission will receive and vet proposals, collect information on opposition to proposed duty suspensions, and then submit a final recommended duty suspension proposal to Congress.

For companies that have worked with members of Congress to submit individual bills in the past, the overall process will be familiar. Just as in the past, proponents of a duty suspension will need to provide information identifying the relevant product and its tariff classification. Proponents will also need to provide estimates of likely future annual imports of the product, and to identify, to the best of their ability, any U.S. producers of the same or directly competitive products.

As in the past, petitions will only make it into the final proposed bill if the duty loss that would occur by reason of a suspension on a specific goods is less than $500,000/year. Further, proposals regarding goods manufactured in the United States are highly unlikely to make it through the petition process.

Companies interested in filing petitions have from today until December 12, 2016 to do so. Companies may also be interested in reviewing filed petitions to determine whether any concern products that they manufacture in the United States. This will ensure that such companies have ample time to file comments in opposition.