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Opinion: Impact de minimis bills could have on MO small business isn’t minimal

Thanks to Rep. Jason Smith’s (R-MO) leadership, things are actually looking up for small businesses here in Missouri. Missouri business owners like me are starting to feel confident again – why else would more than 80,000 people in the Show Me State have filed new business applications last year? The numbers don’t lie; Missouri is open for business and thriving thanks to Rep. Smith.

That being said, it’s clear that the national economy is hanging in a much more delicate balance. Inflation is back for a second wind, and looming labor shortages could spell trouble for Missouri’s small businesses if we aren’t careful. We just can’t afford any more changes to the status quo.

Given that context, it’s become increasingly important to protect key provisions like de minimis, an $800 threshold for duty-free imports that streamlines the process for small businesses ascertaining critical supplies. By keeping costs low, de minimis helps me and other merchants keep our product prices competitive with Big Box retailers, who often have their own manufacturing capabilities.

However, two bipartisan bills have been introduced that could threaten the current de minimis threshold. The De Minimis Reciprocity Act, cosponsored by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and the Import Security and Fairness Act, co-sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and in the House by Rep. Neal Dunn (R-FL) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), both fail to recognize the impact changes to de minimis could have on small businesses.

Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO), who chairs the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, declared earlier this year that he wants to “have a lot of conversations” about the current de minimis level. It’s good to see Rep. Smith take an active interest in ensuring American businesses are protected when trading cross country. But it’s also essential that Congress at large understands that maintaining access to global trade is a cornerstone to the success of domestic small businesses.

If passed, these laws will put extra pressure on our already strained supply chains and could further aggravate product prices. In fact, experts predict that eliminating de minimis could double costs for businesses and consumers alike, adding up to around $47 billion in extra expenses annually. I can’t afford that sort of overhead, and many small businesses like mine could be forced to shutter our doors if de minimis changes.

Congress needs to make sure that it isn’t supporting legislation that could unintendedly impact small businesses like mine, putting both my livelihood and our national economy at risk. If the current de minimis level is changed, legislators could unwittingly deliver yet another blow to thousands of independent businesses and retailers like me. Small business owners are the very Americans who are the heart and soul of the Main Street economy, and we deserve better.

As we continue to navigate economic uncertainty, I’m sure Rep. Smith will ensure Capitol Hill does not pass any laws that inadvertently undermine the progress he’s fought hard to make.