In a significant legislative victory for the RV industry, President Obama signed into law Monday (June 29) legislation that retroactively renews the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) trade program and paves the way for the RV industry to recover more than $22 million in tariffs paid on lauan wood since the program expired in July 2013.

According to a report in RVIA Today Express, GSP provides duty-free treatment to selected goods imported from developing countries for use by U.S. companies in manufacturing goods in the United States for domestic consumption or for export. The program covers lauan wood used extensively in RV manufacturing.

The United States House of Representatives and Senate both gave final approval last week to HR 1295, which reauthorizes GSP through Dec. 31, 2017 — retroactive to the expiration of the program on July 31, 2013 — and provides refunds for tariffs paid on eligible products imported while the program was expired. The legislation will also save the RV industry approximately $30 million in tariffs over the next 2½ years.

The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) has consistently urged Congress to renew the GSP program. “This has been a real bottom line issue for RV manufacturers and suppliers that added directly to the cost of building and buying an RV,” said Dianne Farrell, RVIA’s vice president of government affairs. “We are happy to see common sense finally prevail to pass legislation that will boost American manufacturing.”

Added Mike Ochs, RVIA director of government affairs, who worked on the reauthorization effort, “Many of RVIA’s volunteer leaders as well as many other members of the RV industry contributed greatly to this accomplishment by writing letters and visiting with members of Congress. This success would not have been possible without them.”

The GSP legislation became caught up in the battle over giving President Obama “fast-track” authority to negotiate trade agreements and ended up being passed two separate times in both the Senate and House. The first relatively clean reauthorization passed the Senate on a 97-1 vote last month. It then went to the House, where it was amended to change the offsetting payment method, and then approved by a vote of 397-32.  These two votes reflect the bipartisan agreement on the importance and need for the GSP program.

When the amended version was sent back to the Senate, the leadership used that bill to add back the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program that had been dropped from the fast-track authorization legislation. After cloture was invoked to prevent a filibuster on a 76-22 vote, the legislation was unanimously passed by voice vote in the Senate and returned to the House. The House last Thursday approved the measure on a 268-136 vote. The overwhelming majority of the “No” votes on the final tally were attributable to the inclusion of the TAA.

The new law takes effect on July 29. RVIA will monitor the customs service for notification on how companies should apply for refunds on GSP-eligible products bought in since Aug. 1, 2013, and provide this information to members as soon as it is available.