Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

Relief often comes too late for U.S. workers and companies. This is a step to address the problem.

The International Trade Commission officially released its new Import Monitoring Tool earlier this week, which is designed to allow the public to “more easily monitor changes in U.S. imports.”

It’s one of the things required by the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, which President Obama signed into law earlier this year. The goal of the tool is to provide easily searchable Commerce Department data on the volume and value of goods imported into the United States, allowing users to see whether that data is changing over a period of time.

That is important because it gives U.S. workers, companies, and the government the opportunity to analyze surging imports earlier than ever before, allowing them to proactively investigate and counter any unfair activity. 

And that’s a big deal for workers and companies, who until now have had to show they had been hurt by unfair trade before asking the government to take action to remedy the situation.

For example, steel companies and the United Steelworkers have filed numerous trade cases seeking relief from dumped steel products — and they’ve won many cases.

But the victories came at a huge cost. Tens of thousands of Americans workers had to be laid off and plants had to be closed before anything could be done to level the playing field. As United Steelworkers International President Leo Gerard recently explained:

“Winning a trade case means we have to ‘lose’ first. This says we have to experience injury in the form of permanently lost jobs and shuttered facilities to qualify for relief. Unfortunately, many lives and communities are then shattered in the process.”

While the new import monitoring tool isn’t an absolute fix, it is an important step forward in the fight against unfair trade. It doesn’t make sense that workers and companies have to experience so much pain before our own government can take reasonable action against foreign nations that are clearly gaming the system.