March 04,2004

Grassley Praises Senate Passage of Miscellaneous Tariffs Bill

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Committee on Finance, todaypraised Senate passage of legislation to help U.S. factories compete internationally by suspendingduties on products that American factories don’t produce domestically. The bill also includes dutyfreetreatment of handmade carpets to help the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan and closes a legal loophole that could allow looted Iraqi antiquities to be brought into the United States.

Under unanimous consent, the Senate passed the Senate’s version of the Miscellaneous Trade and Technical Corrections Act of 2003, commonly called the miscellaneous tariff bill.

Grassley said the passage came after a few senators held up the legislation, sometimes anonymously,over sometimes parochial and/or unrelated issues. For months, Grassley worked with these senatorsto resolve their concerns and ensure the bill’s passage.

“This bill supports American factories and workers by allowing factories to save moneywhen they import necessary products,” Grassley said. “At this stage in America’s economicrecovery, we have to give our factories every opportunity to stay in business, to continue to employworkers, and to reduce product costs for consumers.”

The trade bill also includes the Emergency Protection for Iraqi Cultural Antiquities Act of2003 (EPIC Antiquities Act), which Grassley introduced with Sen. Max Baucus, ranking member,last year.

Until last year, Iraqi sanctions regulations restricted virtually all trade with Iraq. But, in May2003, the United Nations Security Council lifted most sanctions on Iraq. The resolution also calledupon members of the United Nations to prohibit trade in archaeological, cultural, historical,religious, and rare scientific items of Iraq that may have been illegally removed from the country.Grassley’s legislation authorizes the President to continue emergency import restrictions on thearchaeological and ethnological materials of Iraq, even after relations are normalized with a newIraqi government.

“This bill permits an extra guarantee of protection for Iraq’s cultural antiquities in the shortterm until Iraq completes its restructuring,” Grassley said. “The last thing that we in Congress wantto do is fail to act to prevent trade in looted Iraqi artifacts here in the United States.”Following is Grassley’s floor statement on the tariff bill to be submitted for the record today.Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, I would like to comment on a bill that has traveled a longand difficult journey to get to the floor today; S. 671, the Miscellaneous Trade and TechnicalCorrections Act of 2003, commonly called the miscellaneous tariff bill.

In fact, this bill's journey began nearly two years ago. The Senate historically passes amiscellaneous tariff bill at the end of every Congress. The bill under consideration today wassupposed to have been passed at the end of the 107th Congress. However, a mark-up scheduled forSeptember 26, 2002, was cancelled, leaving the bill as unfinished business for the current Congress.Upon resuming the chairmanship of the Finance Committee, my intention was to completeunfinished business from the 107th Congress as quickly as possible. To that end we passed the billout of the Senate Finance Committee by voice vote on February 27, 2003. It was hoped that earlypassage of this bill would pave the way for consideration of another miscellaneous tariff bill in the108th Congress. But that was not meant to be.

Traditionally, miscellaneous tariffs bills are non-controversial and pass the Senate byunanimous consent. Sometimes there are attempts to load the bill down with costly andcontroversial items, which is why we didn't produce a bill in the 107th Congress. That's also thereason this bill was delayed this Congress. Contrary to traditional practice, a few senators insistedon adding unrelated and controversial provisions. Unless we agreed to add these controversialprovisions, these senators would not allow the full Senate to consider the bill. In effect, a fewsenators have held this legislation hostage for months for their own parochial purposes. And thatis truly sad and disappointing.

Mr. President, this package contains many trade provisions, primarily duty suspensions,reductions and extensions, for products that are not produced domestically. This bill supportsAmerican factories and workers by allowing manufacturers to save money when they import theseproducts. At this stage in America's economic recovery, we must give every opportunity to ourmanufacturers to reduce costs and pass the savings on to consumers.

A product generally must meet three tests to be eligible for inclusion in a miscellaneous tradebill: first, it must be non-controversial and non-competitive, that is there can be no domesticproducer who objects to inclusion of the provisions. Second, the product should be intended tobenefit U.S. downstream producers, that is someone who utilizes the product in manufacturing.Third, the volume of imports and corresponding revenue loss should be relatively small. To ensurethat the provisions in this bill met that this test, each provision went through an extensive vettingprocess including a public notice and comment period to ensure that they were eligible for inclusionin the bill. This process began during the first session of the 107th Congress.

The bill also contains a number of liquidations or reliquidations for certain entries. Thegeneral rule for inclusion here is that the product entered the country under an incorrect duty ratedue to Customs or other administrative error. These provisions allow those entries to enter thecountry at the correct duty rate.

We also included in this bill a provision that extends preferences under the GeneralizedSystem of Preferences (GSP) to allow duty-free treatment for hand-knotted and hand-woven carpets.This provision is designed primarily to help the citizens of Afghanistan and Pakistan. I believe thatallowing these products to be considered as eligible articles under GSP, will help beneficiarycountries that have joined the United States in the fight against global terrorism. With respect toAfghanistan, which is rebuilding and looking for opportunities for its people, this provision isneeded now more than ever.

Another important provision in this bill corrects a mistake in the Trade Act of 2002 (PL 107-210) that inadvertently and temporarily raised duties on Andean originating handbags, luggage, flatgoods, work gloves and leather wearing apparel under the Andean Trade and Preferences and DrugEradication Act (ATPDEA). This provision retroactively reinstates the reduced duty treatment foreligible products that entered the U.S. from August 6, 2002, the date ATPDEA was signed, and thetime in which these products met the import sensitivity test, several months later. It provides forcontinued duty-free treatment for these eligible products, which was the intent of the Trade Act.

I am also pleased that the bill includes the Emergency Protection for Iraqi CulturalAntiquities Act of 2003. I introduced the EPIC Antiquities Act of 2003 to authorize the Presidentto impose immediate emergency import restrictions on the archaeological and ethnological materialsof Iraq. The purpose of this bill is simple - to close a legal loophole which could allow looted Iraqiantiquities to be brought into the United States.

If Congress does not act to provide the means for establishing an interim ban on trade, thedoor may be opened to imports of looted Iraqi antiquities into the United States. Already the presshas reported allegations that European auction houses have traded in looted Iraqi antiquities. Thelast thing that we in Congress want to do is to fail to act to prevent trade in looted Iraqi artifacts herein the United States.

Also included in the package is a provision that simplifies the U.S. Customs Service's abilityto process commercial importations, thereby resulting in increased efficiency and productivity forboth Customs and the trade community.

Mr. President, I want to point out that the provisions I have covered are not the onlyimportant provisions contained in this bill. This bill makes a number of other technical yetmeaningful changes to our trade laws.

While I am very disappointed some members have delayed the passage of this bill, and eventried to kill this bill with controversial provisions, I would like to thank my colleagues whorespected the traditional rules governing this important legislation. I appreciate their support.I yield the floor.