House, Senate Assign Lawmakers to Competitiveness Bill’s Conference Committee

By Matthew McMullan
Apr 11 2022 |
Getty Images

Legislators will now hammer out a compromise to Congress’ big industrial policy legislation.

Awooga! There’s been movement on the big economic competitiveness legislation moving across Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. House and Senate leadership have named participants to the conference committee that will iron out the differences in the competing versions produced by the two chambers.


The Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) has been following the progress of this effort for some time. Last year, the Senate passed its version of this bill, called the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA). In January, the House passed its own version, the America COMPETES Act. There are differences between the two, which is what the conference committee is for: Its members will work toward a compromise that everyone can live with before the legislation can be signed into law by President Biden.

Why is AAM paying so much attention? Well, its passage is important to American manufacturers. It would represent the largest federal industrial policy bill in years, and it would make funding available for important domestic manufacturing priorities like supply chain resiliency and also specific industries like semiconductor chips and advanced battery production.

We’re also paying attention, however, because there are differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill, and it will matter which language the conference decides to include in its compromise.

For instance, the Senate bill would mandate the U.S. Trade Representative reinstate all of its exemptions and exclusions to the Section 301 tariffs raised against Chinese imports. The entire effort around economic competitiveness legislation is meant to improves American industry’s footing vis a vis its rivals in China – so this strikes AAM as a bad idea.

The Senate bill, on the other hand, also includes legislation that would require that online retailers disclose where the product it’s selling is made and were the seller is located. It’s called the Country of Origin Labeling Online Act – and this is a good idea!

The House’s version, meanwhile, includes another handful of proposals that would improve existing U.S. trade enforcement rules. One would tighten existing anti-dumping and countervailing duty laws – the Leveling the Playing Field Act 2.0, a good idea. Another would close a loophole that allows certain companies like Amazon to import goods nearly duty-free – the Import Security and Fairness Act, another good idea. Another would establish an outbound investment review process to make sure the United States doesn’t allow the offshoring of production capacity to foreign adversaries in important industrial sectors – the National Critical Capabilities Defense Act, which is another good one!

AAM believes all of those trade enforcement proposals should be included in an industrial policy bill as ambitious as this one. And we don’t believe that legislation like this should undercut existing tariffs targeting a country that hasn’t recently traded in good faith. You can read the letter AAM sent to congressional leadership about this here.

It’ll be a few weeks before this conference committee makes any announcements about a compromise. We’ll be keeping an eye on it until then. In the meantime, though, you can weigh in: Tell Congress to give manufacturers and workers the trade tools they need to compete.