Leaders in Florida’s congressional delegation want the House to do something about tariffs coming into the state’s ports.
U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Mario Díaz-Balart sent a bipartisan letter to leaders of the House Ways and Means Committee calling for the reauthorization of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program. That’s a program intended to provide opportunities for many poor and developing nations to grow economies through trade.
The GSP program first launched in 1974 but any authorization expired three years ago, at the end of 2020. The lapse led to increased tariffs on imports from these nations. That resulted in some $3 billion in tariffs being paid, with Florida businesses accounting for $300 million, with the floral import industry bearing $66 million in tariffs alone.
Wasserman Schultz, co-chair of Florida’s delegation, said reauthorizing the program would ease costs for Americans while reducing China’s economic power.
“Renewing GSP is a win-win proposition for consumers, workers, and local businesses, especially in Florida,” the Weston Democrat said. “In addition to lowering operating costs and prices, preferential trade policies promise to continue lifting millions out of poverty and reducing China’s influence on U.S. supply chains. I’m proud to help lead the bipartisan consensus in support of these objectives.”
Díaz-Balart, dean of Florida’s delegation, said it would also reduce America’s own reliance on goods from China but allowing nations with a positive relationship to the U.S. to provide goods.
“The GSP program, a cornerstone of U.S. trade policy for over 45 years, reduces our nation’s growing reliance on China by encouraging a much-needed shifting of supply chains out of China through nearshoring and reestablishing competitive trade relationships,” the Hialeah Republican said.
“The GSP renewal benefits American families and businesses all over the country, including Florida, by lowering tariffs on global imports and thereby helping U.S. manufacturers and importers stay competitive in international markets. Historically, South Florida has benefited greatly from the international trade industry, bringing jobs to our port cities and well into the heart of our state. By reauthorizing GSP, we would revitalize our communities, bolster our economy, and counter China’s influence in our hemisphere.”
The delegation leaders sent the letter to House Ways and Means Chair Jason Smith, a Missouri Republican, and Ranking Member Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat.
The majority of Florida’s congressional delegation co-signed the letter, including Republican U.S. Reps. Aaron Bean, Gus Bilirakis, Vern Buchanan, Neal Dunn, Scott Franklin, Carlos Giménez, Laurel Lee, Brian Mast, John Rutherford, María Elvira Salazar and Daniel Webster and Democratic U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor, Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, Lois Frankel, Maxwell Frost, Jared Moskowitz, Darren Soto and Frederica Wilson.
Of note, Buchanan serves as Ways and Means Vice Chair, and Steube sits on the committee.
Business groups in Florida supported the reauthorization of the program as well.
“We are grateful to the Florida Congressional Delegation for leading the charge to urge the Ways and Means Committee to reauthorize the Generalized System of Preferences,” said Rodrigo Leiva, President of the Florida Association of Floral Importers. “The floral industry is a vital economic engine in Florida, and the absence of GSP has resulted in a significant financial strain to our industry, stunting growth, and impeding job creation. The renewal of GSP isn’t just about tariffs; it’s about fortifying global relations and securing the industry’s role in bolstering the U.S economy.”
The letter said bringing the policy back will also avoid a few unintended consequences on the U.S. economy.
“The absence of GSP renewal has halted business expansion, hindered job creation, and prevented crucial investments in operations and infrastructure. The extended period of expiration—nearly three years—has left this financial burden unresolved,” the letter reads. “And while Florida continues to bear the brunt of this disruption, the ripple effects of inaction is bound to harm consumers across our country and hurt employment prospects in Latin America and the Caribbean, which is a key driver for migration.
“Moreover, the expiration of GSP benefits has unintended consequences, particularly regarding China. The imposition of Section 301 tariffs on Chinese products has compelled many U.S. companies to explore alternative suppliers. However, the expiration of GSP benefits now subjects most of these products to higher tariffs for GSP countries. In Florida, an astounding 99% of GSP imports would face Section 301 tariffs if sourced from China, further exacerbating the tariff burden on our industry.”