Obama signs bill to boost U.S. manufacturing

08:02, August 12, 2010      

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U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed a bill into law to boost domestic manufacturers by suspending import duties on a variety of raw materials.

U.S. President Barack Obama signs the Manufacturing Enhancement Act of 2010 while Commerce Secretary Gary Locke (L) and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk (R) stand by in the East Room of the White House in Washington D.C., capital of the United States, Aug. 11, 2010. The bill is expected to help create jobs and invest in the manufacturing sector, one of the key drivers of U.S. economic recovery. (Xinhua/Zhang Jun)

The bill, formally known as the Manufacturing Enhancement Act of 2010, was approved by the Congress last month. It is expected to save companies 298 million dollars over the next three years in tariff payments to the Treasury, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

"The Manufacturing Enhancement Act of 2010 will create jobs, help American companies compete, and strengthen manufacturing as a key driver of our economic recovery," Obama said at the signing ceremony at the White House.

The National Association of Manufacturers, a top industry group that strongly supports the bill, estimated that the measure would boost U.S. manufacturing output by 4.6 billion dollars and support up to 90,000 jobs.

Obama said the legislation will reduce or eliminate some of the tariffs that manufacturers paid to import raw materials from overseas.

"(This) will significantly lower costs for American companies across the manufacturing landscape -- from cars to chemicals; medical devices to sporting goods. And that will boost output, support good jobs here at home, and lower prices for American consumers," he added.

Manufacturing industry has shown strong performance since the U. S. economy began to recover from the recession in the second half of last year. Since the beginning of this year, the sector has added 183,000 jobs -- the strongest seven months of manufacturing job growth in more than a decade.

The president also vowed to "do every single thing we can to hasten our economic recovery and get our people back to work."

The job market remains sluggish despite a number of initiatives the administration has undertaken. Unemployment rate stayed flat at a near record high of 9.5 percent in July, and nonfarm payroll employment declined by 131,000, the Labor Department reported on Friday.

The manufacturing bill is part of a broader agenda called "Make it in America," a legislative initiative from House Democrats to boost American manufacturing and create new jobs.

The agenda contains a variety of bills to encourage investments in industry, improve manufacturing infrastructure and innovation and strengthen the American workforce.

Republicans criticize the initiative as politically motivated, designed primarily to save the jobs of endangered Rust Belt Democrats whose races could determine the balance of power in the midterm elections in November.

Manufacturing has been declining in terms of its share in the overall economy and employment since the late 1970s. During the past decade, the number of workers absorbed by the sector has fallen from 17.3 million in 1999 to 11.7 million last year, according to the Labor Department.

Some analysts doubt whether manufacturing can drive the world's largest economy, since the U.S. does not have advantages with respect to labor cost and other factors. They even worry about the possibility that the Obama administration's bet on the industry might lead to a new round of protectionism.

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