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What US manufacturing needs to succeed

Today, manufacturing in the U.S. is as resilient and robust as ever. But to continue manufacturing's success in the U.S., we must create a business environment that enables our progress. We need an environment that helps manufacturers succeed.

PPG Industries headquarters located at One PPG Place in Pittsburgh.
Jpellgen | Flickr
PPG Industries headquarters located at One PPG Place in Pittsburgh.

Manufacturing in the U.S. has succeeded because our solutions are grounded on fundamental values. The first of these values is free enterprise: market forces that drive innovation and growth. Another is competitiveness: our ability to invest and expand markets and succeed in the global economy.

These values have enabled manufacturing to make a very valuable and lasting impact on the U.S. economy. Today, manufacturers are creating more jobs, making more products and making them better than ever before. Every year, manufacturing contributes more than $2 trillion to the American economy, or one out of every eight dollars, according to the National Association of Manufacturers.

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And we can't underestimate manufacturing's indirect influence, too: Manufacturing has the biggest multiplier effect of any industry. Every manufacturing dollar in America adds $1.37 to the economy, according to the NAM — nothing else comes close.

Even with this momentum, there are speed bumps that serve to slow us down.

Manufacturing faces a disproportionate share of the burden of government regulations. Business is inhibited when our policies don't match principles, including free enterprise and competitiveness.

America has the highest corporate tax rate on Earth. Meaningful tax reform must begin by implementing a pro-growth tax plan with lower tax rates for the manufacturers who lead our economy. That means more investment, more innovation and more jobs.

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U.S. manufacturers must also be able to attract talent from anywhere in the world. Reform of U.S. immigration laws regarding legal immigrants is essential. We need to improve the employment-based green-card system to keep talent in the U.S., streamline and simplify procedures for temporary or non-immigrant visas and allow for temporary workers and immigrants to meet the needs of employers without displacing American workers.

We should promote key trade policies. It doesn't matter what we make if we can't sell it domestically and internationally. Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) would lead to greater access to the foreign markets we need, and in turn create jobs. Congress must act quickly to renew TPA, an important mechanism to spur new economic opportunities for hundreds of thousands of businesses with operations in the U.S. and the millions of workers they employ. TPA is critical to provide U.S. companies with access to markets outside the country, which make up 80 percent of the world's purchasing power, to maintain and grow their businesses.

Permanently reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank is a necessary step, as well. The bank is a vital tool in helping manufacturers compete on a level playing field and secure new customers in emerging markets.

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It is also important for Congress to act on a Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB). This bipartisan legislation would allow Congress to correct distortions in the U.S. tariff code and create a transparent process for Congressional consideration of MTB.

We can't continue to watch from the sidelines as the rest of the world is busy negotiating free-trade agreements. Every year U.S. manufacturers sell so much more in manufactured goods to free-trade partner countries than we buy from them — $60 billion more. But for countries with which the U.S. doesn't have free-trade agreements, we're running a trade deficit exceeding $500 billion.

Manufacturers are doing our part. We're making our products and the places where they're made more energy efficient. We're leading the way on reducing waste. We're curbing greenhouse gas emissions. And we'll continue developing sustainable solutions that power our economy and create jobs here at home.

But we can't do it alone. Fair and transparent regulations, more competitive taxes, better immigration policies and international trade are important issues that we must address today if we want to continue the momentum of U.S. manufacturing in the future.

Commentary by Bryan N. Iams, vice president of corporate and government affairs for Pittsburgh-based paint and coatings manufacturer, PPG Industries. In addition to overseeing government affairs, he has responsibility for corporate communications, marketing, and community affairs.