Five Senators Put It in Writing: Industrial Policy Bill Should Include Trade Provisions

By Matthew McMullan
Feb 18 2022 |
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Non-market economies, they argue, are “rigging the rules in their favor and denying our companies and our workers the only thing they need—a fair shot.”

A few weeks ago, the U.S. House of Representatives unveiled its COMPETES Act – its version of the big industrial competitiveness bill that the Senate passed last year. We liked a lot of the stuff in it, particularly the funding it would allocate for a supply chain resiliency fund meant to shore up domestic production of critical goods – provided the details of how that fund will be formulated are well-written.  

That said, there’s other stuff that we like in the House’s version too, like the handful of trade provisions that would help domestic manufacturers measure up to often-unfair import competition from China. There’s the fix to the de minimis tariff loophole that currently allows e-commerce giants to import an incredible amount of goods duty-free; and there’s the fact that the House bill doesn’t make the gargantuan mistake of blindly stripping away richly earned Section 301 tariffs on Chinese imports.

We also like a proposed review process meant to divert the offshoring of critical productive capacity in key industries, and we like an idea that would tighten trade remedy rules so that trade cheats aren’t allowed to bury their victims in lawsuits and get away with it. Both of these ideas are proposed in the House version of the competitiveness bill, too.

Will they make it into the legislation that comes out of the conference committee that will merge the competing bills? The line from the press covering Congress is: No, the Senate isn’t gonna vote for any of this stuff. It’s apparently too politically divisive to, for example, make sure Amazon’s business model isn’t inconvenienced.

But while they might not make it in, there are at least some members of the Senate who think they should. Democratic Senators Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Bob Casey (Pa.), Sheldon Whitehouse (Rhode Island), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) put that in writing to Congressional leadership this week.

They wrote:

American workers can outcompete anyone in the world if they are working on a level playing field. We must make these overdue investments in domestic manufacturing and American workers, which will strengthen American economic and national security, lower costs for families, provide good-paying jobs to American workers and ensure that we can make things here in America rather than relying on our foreign adversaries for the basic functions of our economy. Investments in domestic production, however, must be paired with pro-worker, pro-environment trade provisions to give American businesses and workers a fighting chance to compete against non-market economies, such as China, that are rigging the rules in their favor and denying our companies and our workers the only thing they need—a fair shot.

Emphasis added, because shout out to these Senators. These proposals to better trade policy have a place in this legislation, and the Alliance for American Manufacturing wants to see them included too.