Notes and Methodology on the Tariff Suspensions


A few words on the tariff suspensions database

The primary sources of data come from the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade (there’s an Excel spread sheet available for download here and the U.S. International Trade Commission (their analyses of miscellaneous tariff bills from the last decade are online here).

The Ways and Means spreadsheet listed the bill number and name, its sponsor, a link to the bill text in Thomas, and a link to a file containing any comments the committee received about the bill (there are details on the commenting process here). USITC analyses of individual bills include the name and location of the proponent (that is, the company or organization requesting the suspension), a description of the item or items for which the tariff suspension is requested, its country or countries of origin, and estimates of how much that suspension will cost the Treasury over the life of the duty suspension.

Some tariff bills extend previously granted suspensions, most of which are expiring at the end of 2009. Bills in the current Congress, the 110th, that extend tariff suspensions generally show a “$0” figure for 2009 revenue lost (there are a few exceptions) because USITC attributes lost revenue to the previous suspension. To find out how much 2009 revenue would be lost, I used the item description and, on occasion, Google, to search USITC’s site for the analysis from the 109th Congress. Often sponsors changed from Congress to Congress, as did proponents, on occasion, so the item in question was often the only reliable means of tracking suspensions from one Congress to the next.

I used DabbleDB to put the database together because it’s cheap (and is free if you’re willing to open the data up to anyone) and is reasonably serviceable, although the publishing options leave a little to be desired (I wish users could use the database to do things like subtotal columns — something I can do when I’m logged in with my account).

To download the data in a CSV file, click here; to download it in JSON format, click here; it’s also available in Excel, although when I tried to download it, my spreadsheet had some formatting issues.