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Congress Should Act to Rebuild Supply Chains at Home: There’s Bipartisan Room to Run

As we head into a divided Congress next year, many anticipate that there will be partisan gridlock on important priorities. Yet there doesn’t have to be. There is broad agreement on both sides of the political aisle to support policies aimed at reasserting control over the trade relations with China and rebuilding supply chains at home. 

That could be good news for American manufacturers and workers if both parties in Congress are willing to seize this unique opportunity. 

There is existing low-hanging legislation that Congress can immediately pass next year that has broad bipartisan support. There are also immediate opportunities in a lame-duck session before the end of this year to advance these key bipartisan measures.

The following legislative priorities enjoy broad congressional agreement aimed at building our domestic supply chains and recalibrating our trade relationship with China:

MTB Renewal: Since the end of 2020, U.S. textile and apparel manufacturers have been operating without the benefits of a trade measure known as the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB). 

The MTB allows for the temporary elimination of tariffs on imported components not produced in the United States. It’s intended to help domestic manufacturers produce more products in the United States.  It helps manufacturers compete globally when inputs are not readily available with a temporary duty suspension for those non-controversial component parts. 

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In recent history, the MTB has enjoyed broad bipartisan support. It’s long overdue that Congress pass the MTB into law and give domestic manufacturers much-needed relief. 

De Minimis: A legal loophole in U.S. trade law, known as Section 321 de minimis waivers, is undermining efforts to hold China accountable and our ability to enforce the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. 

The de minimis trade loophole is being aggressively used by e-commerce companies and mass marketers.  It allows goods valued at $800 or less per person to arrive at our doorsteps duty-free each day through e-commerce.  U.S. officials estimate approximately 2.7 million de minimis packages enter the U.S. market each day that otherwise would be subject to tariffs, penalty tariffs, taxes and customs inspection. Just last week Bloomberg reported that de minimis shipments are being utilized to facilitate Xinjiang forced labor apparel into our closets.  

The House of Representatives has already passed legislation with bipartisan support designed to close the de minimis loophole, but the legislation to date has stalled in Congress. Closure of this loophole will prevent companies from overtly circumventing other measures to curb China’s illegal trade practices, including the 301 tariffs and the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act.

Oversight of the Make PPE in America Act: Congress should prioritize the oversight of the Make PPE in America Act. Under this statute, all PPE purchased by the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Homeland Security (DHS), and Veterans Affairs (VA) must be manufactured in the U.S. from domestic components and sourced through long-term contracts. Now that this law is in full effect, it is imperative that its strong domestic PPE manufacturing and procurement provisions are implemented both comprehensively and expeditiously.  Regrettably, certain agencies like the VA are not complying with the new law even though it is required to be in full effect since November 2021. It’s high time that this critical provision, which had broad bipartisan support, is fully implemented immediately.

Fund the Strategic National Stockpile and Supply Chain Resiliency:  Over two years ago, the U.S. government was scrambling to secure essential PPE when our hospitals needed it most because of depleted reserves.  It’s critical that the Strategic National Stockpile has the funding it needs to ensure we are never in that position again. Further, it’s important that Congress and the administration prioritize U.S. industrial base expansion for essential products and raw materials production to ensure supply chain resiliency.  Congress should also explore ways to incentivize hospitals to purchase more domestically made PPE and encourage the use of more reusable PPE products that are better for the environment.

NDAA/HOPR Act: The House and Senate have agreed on critical defense legislation that is expected to be considered later this month and signed into law shortly.  The 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes an important provision for the U.S. textile industry for the Homeland Procurement Reform (HOPR) Act. The HOPR Act establishes specific criteria that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) must meet to procure more domestically manufactured uniforms, footwear, and related items by DHS agencies. This common-sense broadly supported provision is included in the final NDAA bill and is important to help ensure a strong, warm industrial base for these critical items.  

When considering the challenges domestic textile and apparel manufacturers are now facing, these legislative initiatives realize goals and objectives that enjoy bipartisan support in Congress. At the same time, domestic manufacturing will directly benefit from them, resulting in significant investment and the creation of jobs across the entire U.S. textile supply chain.

Kimberly Glas, president and CEO of the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO), has more than 20 years experience in government policy development and advocacy. She most recently served as executive director of the BlueGreenAlliance, a national partnership of labor and environmental organizations working to advance the creation of quality jobs in the clean energy economy. Before leading the BlueGreen Alliance, Glas served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Textiles, Consumer Goods, and Materials at the U.S. Department of Commerce.