Members of Congress from Both Parties Want Trade Laws Enforced

By Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch
Mar 28 2016 |
Senators recently wrote to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker to ask that her agency fully enforce U.S. trade remedy laws. | Photo via Wikipedia Commons

Senators urge Commerce Secretary to take action; House members seek funding for enforcement.

American manufacturers and workers got a boost when President Obama signed bipartisan legislation to combat unfair trade. Now Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle are working to ensure the new tools created by the law are put to use.

Twenty-two Senators from both parties wrote to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker on March 21 to ask the Commerce Department to fully implement the Leveling the Playing Field Act. Signed into law by Obama in June 2015, the measure strengthens U.S. trade remedy laws and aims to ensure manufacturers and workers get relief from unfair trading practices.

Over in the House, 62 representatives wrote Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Chairman John Culberson (R-Texas) and Ranking Member Mike Honda (D-Calif.) to ask that additional resources be allocated to increase the number of analysts that are investigating the “growing caseload of increasingly complicated antidumping and countervailing duty petitions.”

Trade enforcement is vital to the survival of U.S. workers and manufacturers, who have been forced to unfairly compete with foreign trade cheats.  Commodities industries such as steel and aluminum in particular have faced an onslaught of heavily subsidized foreign imports that are being dumped into the U.S. market.

This trade cheating has led to factories being idled and tens of thousands of layoffs across the country.

Chinese steelmakers, for example, produced around 823 million metric tons of steel in 2014 alone; the country has up to 425 million metric tons that’s going unused. But because Chinese steelmakers are government-owned or closely linked to local governments, they continue to churn out product at record rates.

All that extra steel is then sent to the United States and priced as cheap as possible. That’s hugely unfair to U.S. steelmakers, who compete in an open marketplace and abide by strict American labor and environmental rules.

Fortunately, there are laws on the books designed to level the playing field for U.S. companies and their employees. But those laws only work if they are properly enforced in a timely fashion.

As the House Members note, that requires adequate funding. They write:

“Antidumping and countervailing duty cases are labor intensive and require a great deal of analysis, thorough investigations, and verification of evidence submitted by respondents in foreign countries. A shortage of dedicated case analysts may permit foreign nations to slow walk the process or induce the DOC to request extensions from petitioners that delay the efficient implementation of trade remedies. This, in turn, results in prolonged injury to domestic steel producers and workers.”

Meanwhile, the Senators want to make sure Secretary Pritzker and the Commerce Department are properly implementing the new law. Senators are concerned that the department is ignoring a provision that Commerce must apply “adverse facts available” in trade cases when a foreign company or government doesn’t cooperate with the department’s investigation.

In basic terms, this means that foreign companies can’t delay an investigation by refusing to provide information. Past investigations have been held up because of foreign companies not responding, which prevents relief from reaching U.S. companies and workers, the senators note:

“Failure to use [adverse facts available] in the face of uncooperative respondents allows trade cheats to get away with violating international trade law and prevents American manufacturers from competing on a level playing field. The result has been devastating for domestic production and employment.”

While Congress works to ensure our trade laws are enforced, China is not-so-quietly lobbying to convince the U.S. government to reverse its longstanding non-market economy status. This would be devastating to U.S. workers, since it would gut current trade laws.

American workers are ready to compete against anyone in the world — but China rigs the game. Fair trade is essential for manufacturing, and the aggressive enforcement of U.S. trade laws is an important step toward leveling the playing field for U.S. workers.

The Alliance for American Manufacturing is among the groups that have joined Manufacturers for Trade Enforcement, a coalition that’s opposed to the automatic granting of market economy status for China. You can help — tell President Obama and Congress to maintain China’s current non-market economy status