The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade kicked off 2013 with a focus on its middle name. It’s fitting. After all, Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., who chairs the committee, changed the subcommittee name when he took over in 2011 to include an explicit reference to manufacturing.
The subcommittee’s manufacturing initiative, called “Our Nation of Builders,” is a series of hearings that began with a manufacturing showcase, featuring products from lawmakers’ districts. Attendees were particularly entranced by a 3-D printer from Direct Dimensions, a Maryland-based firm.
The goal is to identify ways in which Congress can help the manufacturing sector grow and be more competitive. To that end, expect discussion and some consideration of legislation on such domestic issues as increasing direct foreign investment, corporate-tax reform, streamlining regulations, and skills training.
“We can’t be complacent about our standing as the greatest manufacturing nation on earth,” subcommittee Chairman Lee Terry, a Nebraska Republican, wrote in a February editorial that ran in U.S. News & World Report.
So far, lawmakers have heard from Fram Renewable Fuels, Block Steel, 3M, and Oil City Iron Works, among other companies. A separate hearing was held on April 10 that focused on the auto industry, with representatives from Ford, Toyota, and Honda among the witnesses.
Looking abroad, trade is another important piece of the manufacturing puzzle, and there will be overlap in the committee’s focus on the manufacturing sector and on trade talks between the United States and European Union this year. Manufacturers have been proponents of reaching agreement on a new trade deal. “A successful U.S.-E.U. trade deal will be one that removes unnecessary impediments to manufacturing growth and does not create new ones,” wrote Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, in a March letter to President Obama.
“A growth-producing U.S.-E.U. agreement will enhance manufacturing competitiveness and commercial opportunities, and not impose rules or seek to harmonize standards that would undermine the United States’ dynamic labor market, strong intellectual-property protections, or other policies that promote innovation,” he continued.
The Energy and Commerce Committee will be exercising oversight and talking to negotiators during the trade talks about aspects of a potential deal that fall under its jurisdiction, including laws that will affect U.S. manufacturing firms.
This article appears in the April 18, 2013, edition of NJ Daily as How Can Congress Help Manufacturers?.