The Bipartisan Innovation Act aims to invest in critical manufacturing for things like semiconductors and reshore supply chains. But the legislation also needs to include language to help workers and manufacturers fight unfair trade.
It’s time to take action, folks.
Right now, Congress is considering the Bipartisan Innovation Act. You probably have heard of it before; various versions of it have been called a number of different names over the past year, including the America COMPETES Act and the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA). The press often refers to it as the “China competitiveness bill,” since its overall goal is to strengthen critical manufacturing and help the United States compete against China globally.
Both the House and the Senate have passed their versions of the legislation, and now it’s up to the two chambers to resolve the differences between the two versions and get something to President Biden’s desk. There’s a lot to like in the legislation, but there’s something critical missing in the Senate version: The Leveling the Playing Field Act 2.0.
Included in the House version, the bipartisan Leveling the Playing Field Act 2.0 is designed to modernize America’s trade remedy laws to give manufacturers and workers the tools they need to compete globally against countries like China that don’t abide by the rules of global trade. This language is critical to making sure the Bipartisan Innovation Act is effective.
Unfortunately, it’s not enough to merely invest in manufacturing — action also must be taken to ensure that American workers and manufacturers can compete at a time when China’s government is aiming to dominate global industry.
We saw the consequence of lax trade enforcement with the U.S. solar panel industry. At the start of the 21st century, former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama both took steps to encourage solar panel production and power clean energy. For a time, it looked like it had paid off! At one point, there were 75 major solar factories in the United States, and the country made 22% of the world’s solar panels.
Today, that percentage is at 1%. China used a litany of unfair trade practices to overrun the market, and the United States didn’t do enough to stand up for its own producers and workers.
We can’t let that happen again, especially considering the enormous potential of reshoring supply chains and pivoting to clean energy. And we have to maximize our ability to enforce our trade laws, as countries like China have gotten increasingly sophisticated in their efforts to evade trade rules and seize U.S. market share.
For example, there’s the “whack-a-mole” problem, in which trade remedy orders are put in place on imports for one country, leading to the U.S. market being flooded with dumped imports of that same product from another country. Under the Leveling the Playing Field Act 2.0, the process for trade relief in these types of cases would be expedited, allowing action to be taken much sooner and minimizing the damage to American workers and companies.
There are a number of other trade tools included in the bill, including those to address cross-border subsidization, in which foreign governments subsidize their own manufacturers in third country markets; give the Commerce Department additional tools to combat cost distortion; and clarify the Commerce Department’s authority for trade enforcement proceedings.
There’s widespread support for many of the things included in the Bipartisan Innovation Act; there aren’t a whole lot of people out there arguing that the United States doesn’t need to invest more in semiconductor production, for example. But these investments will not be enough unless American manufacturers and workers have the ability to stand up to global trade cheats.