March at-a-glance…taxes, tariffs & trade

USTR releases 2021 Trade Policy Agenda

In early March, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) released the Biden administration’s 2021 Trade Policy Agenda and 2020 Annual Report, which must be submitted annually by statute.

According to Christine Sohar Henter, NAFEM legal counsel, Barnes & Thornburg, “The administration’s trade policy is not surprising, but it does clearly set the tone for what we will be encountering from a trade perspective.”

Priorities identified in the Trade Policy Agenda include:

  • Ensuring that frontline workers have access to necessary PPE.
  • Respecting the dignity of work and valuing Americans as workers and wage-earners, including a commitment to self-initiate and advance labor enforcement petitions under the USMCA, and combat forced labor.
  • Building bilateral and multilateral consensus on how trade policies address the climate crisis, bolster sustainable renewable energy supply chains, end unfair trade practices, discourage regulatory arbitrage and foster innovation and creativity.
  • Addressing the China challenge with a comprehensive strategy and systematic approach, including using all available tools to take on its unfair trade practices.
  • Repairing partnerships and alliances and restoring U.S. leadership around the world, including at international organizations such as the World Trade Organization.
  • Supporting domestic initiatives that eliminate social and economic structural barriers to equality and economic opportunity and pursuing the same objectives in negotiations with our trading partners.
  • Developing and reinforcing resilient manufacturing supply chains, especially those made up of small businesses.
  • Opening markets and reducing trade barriers, noting that export-oriented producers, manufacturers and businesses enjoy greater than average productivity and wages.
  • Strong trade enforcement to ensure U.S. trading partners live up to their commitments.

MEP program helps strengthen and grow U.S. manufacturing

President Biden’s January Executive Order, referred to as the “Buy American” program, directed federal agencies to partner with the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) to identify American companies that can produce goods, products and materials in the U.S. that meet Federal procurement needs.

MEP, created by the Reagan administration in 1988, is part of the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST). Its purpose is to “enhance productivity and technological performance in U.S. manufacturing.” MEP is particularly focused on helping drive growth among small and medium-sized manufacturers in today’s technology-driven economy.

MEP operates 51 centers in all states plus Puerto Rico that offer technical and managerial assistance. They do not offer direct financial support. Instead, MEP’s network of over 1,300 advisors and experts provide access to resources that help U.S. manufacturers succeed. MEP Centers work with manufacturers to develop new products and customers, expand and diversify markets, adopt new technology, and enhance value within supply chains. One of its services is the supplier scouting referenced in President Biden’s executive order.

MEP provides an interactive map to help interested U.S. manufacturers find their state’s center.

Endless Frontier Act introduced to strengthen U.S. competitiveness with China

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) are reinvigorating the May 2020 Endless Frontier Act intended to bolster U.S. competitiveness with China. The Act would significantly expand the work of the National Science Foundation by providing $100 billion to strengthen 10 key technology areas over the next five years. “Without a significant increase in investment in research, education, and technology transfer, it is only a matter of time before America’s global competitors overtake the U.S. in terms of technological primacy,” said Senator Young.