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Is Mexican Trucking Harming US Industry? USITC Needs $2.75M to Find Out

The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) sent a letter to Congressional appropriators on Wednesday seeking a $2.75 million increase to its fiscal year 2020 funding level for the implementation of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), if Congress enacts a continuing budget resolution for fiscal year 2021.

The USMCA, which entered into force on July 1, requires the USITC to investigate whether the U.S. long-haul trucking industry is materially harmed by an increase in cross-border trucking services provided by Mexican suppliers.

“Faced with the prospect in fiscal year 2021 of a continuing resolution at our fiscal year 2020 funding level of $99.4 million, I am writing to request a continuing resolution anomaly on behalf of the U.S. International Trade Commission,” wrote Jason E. Kearns, USITC chair. “Absent this increase, the USITC faces a high risk of failing to successfully carry out the USMCA. Further, the commission risks not meeting its other statutory responsibilities in fiscal year 2021 due to a historic increase in workload for all investigative areas.”

Kearns noted that international trade has never been a more important part of the U.S. economy and the debate over how to shape it has never been more robust or wide-ranging. This focus is reflected in a “dramatically higher workload at the USITC,” he said.

“Despite this, the commission has worked hard to meet its statutory deadlines and short-term requests for analysis related to the rapidly changing economic conditions and the COVID-19 pandemic,” Kearns wrote to the chair and ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on commerce, justice, science and related agencies. “In the months since our budget briefings, we have experienced an exponential increase in the workload that informed our fiscal year 2021 budget request.”

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He said as of June 30, with one full quarter remaining in the fiscal year, the USITC has already received 20 antidumping and countervailing duty petitions, matching the recent record high for an entire fiscal year. Based on this unprecedented level of filings, even if it were to receive no additional filings in fiscal year 2020, USITC will reach 70 instituting investigations, surpassing the previous modern-era peak of 66 in 2017.

Similarly, unfair import investigations have remained at historically high levels, Kearns wrote, with the volume of general fact-finding investigations already at a level almost double that of 2019.

In addition, trade policy actions have resulted in a substantial number of revisions to the U.S. Harmonized Tariff Schedule, with commission staff already completing 22 revisions this year as a result of section 301 exclusions stemming from tariffs imposed by the Trump administration on Chinese imports.