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Weekly Column: Keeping Pressure On China, Not Idaho Producers

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

We must work to ensure free and fair trade—and use trade enforcement tools as necessary—while taking into account the best interests of our domestic manufacturers.  One of the reasons I held firm on including the Trade Act of 2021 in the Senate-passed S. 1260, the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), was to make sure the pressure stays on China, not Americans.

As Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, I worked with Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) to negotiate a strong trade package, called the Trade Act of 2021, to push back against China in one of the most critical arenas we face: trade, our economy and working against China’s efforts to undercut American companies.  I successfully used the Senate filibuster to convince Senate leadership to hold a vote on whether to include the Trade Act in the broader USICA, and the Senate passed the Trade Act as an amendment by a vote of 91-4. 

Among its important provisions for Idaho is a provision to create a more effective process for Americans to seek exclusions from Section 301 tariffs in appropriate cases.  Over the past roughly three years, the U.S. has applied Section 301 tariffs to imports of goods from China to address China’s unfair and discriminatory technology transfer and intellectual property practices.  I support using Section 301 tariffs to address China’s unfair trade practices.  However, to be effective, pressure must be applied to China, not American workers, businesses and consumers. 

To tailor the tariffs to prevent negative effects on American workers, consumers and small businesses relying on imported goods for further manufacturing and sales, President Trump granted exclusions from the Section 301 China tariffs to American businesses to protect them from severe economic harm.  Several Idaho companies received product exclusions, all of which have since expired, and are again paying tariffs on critical inputs and manufacturing components.  Examples of these products include parts for off-road vehicles and snowmobiles, portable air compressors, germinated planting seeds and artificial fishing lures, among others.

The Trade Act would reinstate previously granted exclusions through 2022 to help affected businesses remain competitive in a global marketplace.  The Trade Act also includes the following provisions to combat China’s threats to free and fair trade:

  • Directs the USTR to enter into negotiations to stop importation of goods made with stolen intellectual property into the U.S. and allied countries.  Addressing the theft of American intellectual property, including Chinese state-owned companies stealing valuable trade secrets from U.S.-based companie, is critical to be effectively competitive against China. 
  • Bolsters efforts to prohibit goods made with forced labor from reaching the U.S.
  • Expands the ability to strengthen crucial domestic supply chains.
  • Requires development of a strategy on critical minerals (used in the manufacture of medical devices, cell phones, vehicle batteries, defense systems and more) to counter China’s dominant share of that global supply.

These provisions complement the USICA that is focused on strengthening U.S. leadership in critical technologies through research and commercialization of key technology, including artificial intelligence, high performance computing and advance manufacturing.  The Trade Act and the broader USICA will strengthen America’s competitive footing and help Idaho’s hardworking producers compete globally.  I look forward to the enactment of this important legislation that will make America more competitive with China and keep pressure where it should be.

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