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Weekly Column: Expanding Trade = Expanding Freedom

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Freedom has always informed my thinking on trade.  Our country was founded on the promise of freedom, and history shows Americans excel when given more freedom.  We can promote freedom around the world and for the American people by improving trade opportunities and enforcement.

The Declaration of Independence attacked King George, among other reasons, for cutting off America’s freedom to trade with the world, and time has proven the value of fair trade.  From 1950 through at least the first 16 years of this century, trade expansion proved to increase U.S. GDP by $2.1 trillion or more than $18,000 per household.  Over this same period, we strengthened relations with allies and enhanced our economies.  Today, we need no foreign monarch to cut off our freedom to trade.  We are losing that freedom ourselves, by simply sitting on the sidelines of the international trade arena.  This is a huge mistake.  Meanwhile, China is aggressively negotiating new agreements to secure better access for its producers. 

Assertive American trade policy unleashes Idahoans’ talent and productivity by removing foreign barriers through tough negotiations and enforcement.  The potential of the American people is staggering.  However, what the Biden Administration proposes as trade negotiations and an enforcement agenda are strikingly limited.  A few examples are indicative:

Agriculture: American ranchers and farmers produce the world’s best and safest food, and exported $196 billion in 2022.  The Idaho State Department of Agriculture reports more than $2.6 billion of Idaho’s produce, grains, meats, dairy and seeds are sold worldwide.  Agriculture producers can accomplish even more if we eliminate the high tariffs and unscientific restrictions posing as safety measures erected by other countries to prevent American agriculture from outcompeting in world markets.  The Administration is unfortunately doing far too little to challenge foreign tariffs and nonscience-based safety measures. 

Workers: In the same vein, American workers are highly skilled at manufacturing and have drawn nearly $1.9 trillion in foreign investment.  That kind of investment coupled with American workers’ talent should make us an export powerhouse, but unreasonable product specification standards continue to keep our manufacturing out of many markets.  The Administration should be pursuing a “technical barriers to trade” chapter to remove these trade barriers.

Innovators: Innovators and artists develop life-saving products and films and music that spread American values.  Copyright industries alone generate $1.8 trillion in economic output.  Yet, instead of working to strengthen U.S. intellectual property rules, the Administration waived U.S. intellectual property rights for COVID vaccines, and is even now considering expanding that waiver to diagnostic and therapeutic products.  And, while China’s most pernicious mercantilist policy is the theft of American intellectual property—the Administration has not pursued any IP rules that could prevent China from benefitting from its theft through sales in other countries.

Digital Economy: U.S. digital firms are a major contributor to U.S. economic growth, with the digital economy now comprising 10 percent of U.S. GDP.  The Administration has yet to press the European Union on measures that unreasonably target the U.S. digital economy.

We must do better.  Our country should be actively engaged in removing high tariffs and unscientific restrictions that penalize America’s farmers and ranchers; breaking down barriers that stifle manufacturing exports; bolstering rather than waiving U.S intellectual property rights; and shelving measures that unreasonably target the U.S. digital economy.  The Administration should be consulting Congress, as U.S. trade policy is strongest when the Administration and Congress work together.  The American people deserve a better trade policy.  As Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, I will continue working with my congressional colleagues to achieve it.

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