Level the Playing Field Act 2.0 is “Exactly in the Spirit of What We Need,” USTR Tai Says

By Cathalijne Adams
Apr 01 2022 |
Screenshot from the Senate Finance Committee

As Beijing continues to flout global trade rules, USTR Katherine Tai has called for “new domestic trade tools.” The Leveling the Playing Field Act 2.0 can help answer that call.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai on Thursday called upon the United States to update its tools to fight unfair trade — and pointed to legislation making its way through Congress as an example of what is needed.

During her testimony before the Senate Finance Committee, Tai was asked to specifically address the Leveling the Playing Field Act 2.0, legislation that Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), both members of the committee, introduced as an amendment to the American competitiveness legislation that the Senate is currently considering.

“I just want to emphasize that most of our trade enforcement tools date back to the 1970s and the 1980s, and it is critical that we maintain those tools. But, over time, as the global economy has evolved around us, our tools have not kept up,” Tai said. “And so, the updates and the enhancements that are in the Level the Playing Field Act 2.0 are exactly in the spirit of what we need right now, which is the tailoring of a toolset and expansion of a toolset that’s going to be up to the task of meeting the challenges that we’re facing today.”

This isn’t the first time Tai has backed the legislation. Earlier this week, Tai had called for “new domestic tools” to meet the enduring existential challenge that China and its market manipulation presents to the U.S. manufacturing industry.

Leveling the Playing Field Act 2.0 is designed to strengthen trade remedy laws by cracking down on repeat offenders and establishing a process of successive and concurrent investigations on the same imported product.

The House included the language in its competitiveness bill, but the Senate did not. Now the two chambers are working to advance the final legislative package, currently called the Bipartisan Innovation Act, and it is critical Leveling the Playing Field Act 2.0 is included.

The Bipartisan Innovation Act aims to boost domestic manufacturing and could invest billions of dollars in the production of critical products like semiconductors. But, without also bolstering America’s trade tools, U.S. manufacturers and workers remain at a serious disadvantage in the global market.

As Tai noted in her testimony Thursday, industrial policy is an essential next step in countering China’s market manipulations as trade talks with Chinese officials yield little meaningful change. Already, the U.S. has lost millions of jobs as China’s state-subsidized and state-owned enterprises obliterate competition with overcapacity in critical industries like steel and aluminum. And now Beijing is setting its target on emerging industries like clean energy and electric vehicles as well.   

“We’re not going to close the door on those conversations [with China]. Nevertheless, we do need to move to a new phase of our engagement, and that includes looking more intensively at the overall industrial policy,” Tai said.

Along with urging Congress to advance the Leveling the Playing Field Act, Tai also pointed to additional measures that can help strengthen U.S. trade enforcement.

During Thursday’s hearing, when asked by Brown what trade tools support the USTR and President Biden’s mission of making good on worker-centered trade policy, Tai said, “On new tools and strategic investment — Let me just mention some of the efforts that are currently underway as extremely promising: Level the Playing Field 2.0 Act… frankly, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act that was passed and signed into law at the end of last year is another example; the chips legislation that has been proposed in both the chambers. And, let me just say that all these components are critically important, necessary, but also not sufficient.”

Join us in urging Congress to include give manufacturers and workers the trade tools they need!