The upcoming steel tariffs are all over the news, but very few are talking about the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill Act of 2018. If you're a designer, design entrepreneur or work in a shop, here's how the MTBA 2018 could affect you.
First off let's explain what it is. Miscellaneous Tariff Bills were first launched in the 1980s to boost American manufacturing. The idea was to drop the tariffs on certain imported items crucial to manufacturing, like chemicals and materials. But over the years the bills grew more bloated, adding completed consumer products to the list of items that can be imported duty-free.
That bloating has harmed certain U.S. manufacturers. For example Korchmar, a Florida-based company that produces leather travel goods, was ready to hire 30 people to manufacture a new insulated food bag they're about to launch, according to Reuters. Unfortunately they've had to put the brakes on that plan, because that item category has made it onto MTBA 2018, which the House of Representatives unanimously passed in January.
The bill would cut costs for rivals who make their bags in low-cost countries like China, [CEO Michael Korchmar] said, squeezing him out of the market before he had even entered it.
"Given that these products will be able to come into the country duty free, it's not likely that there's any ability for us to compete."
Might be Bad for You
There's 1,664 items on the list, from pet toys to kitchen knives, smartphone cases to backpacks. If you're a design entrepreneur who was thinking about producing these in the 'States, you may be S.O.L. if your object makes it onto the list.
Might be Good for You
Conversely, if there's a particular raw material or subcomponent you need for your product--acrylic films, polypropylene monofilament, nickel alloy wire, etc.--the cost on those items and hundreds more will be coming down.
Might Make Your Shop Cheaper to Run
Also, if you run your own shop, your tooling costs may go down. On the list of items due to have their tariffs dropped are table saws, band saws, compound miter saws, drill presses, bench vises and a host of other shop-related items.
How to Find Out How it Will Affect You
The best way to see if the MTBA 2018 will affect you is to check it out here, where you can download it as a PDF. The document is over 500 pages so you'll then have to do a search for your item or material.
If you find an item on the list that would harm your business, the best thing to do is to contact your local Senator and apply to have the item knocked off of the list. (Talking to your Representative won't help because the House has already passed the MTBA 2018, but the bill has yet to pass the Senate.) If you don't speak up on behalf of your business, no one's going to step in to help you:
The bill's supporters say that businesses have only themselves to blame if they do not defend their interests in Washington.
"If somebody doesn't know about something, that's a shame, but that might mean that they didn't take steps to stay informed," said Stephen Lamar, executive vice president of the American Apparel and Footwear Association.