AUBURN – Plans to make some Auburn manufacturers exempt from tariffs could move forward Tuesday.

Auburn would be declared a foreign trade zone if officials from the U.S. Department of Commerce agree. They’ll be reviewing the city’s application at 1 p.m. in the Auburn City Building.

Manufacturers within a foreign trade zone can have raw materials shipped to them duty-free. They can then manufacture their goods and ship them to international customers duty-free. Tariff savings could encourage manufacturers to bring their business to Auburn.

“By establishing a general purpose zone in Auburn, we would allow local manufacturers to declare themselves a sub-zone,” said Ben Hayes of the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council. “Then, they can have goods shipped to them direct, duty-free, from any port.”

The trade zone would center on the Auburn Freight Intermodal Facility and extend for 60 miles or a 90 minute drive around it. The intermodal facility provides links between the Maine Turnpike and the St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad. The St. Lawrence and Atlantic in turn connects to international ports in Halifax, Montreal and Vancouver, Canada.

The facility got a part-time U.S. Customs presence in 2003 as an extension of the Port of Portland. That lets customs officials inspect international freight in Auburn instead of having to ship it to customs officials in Portland.

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