A bipartisan legislative group is pushing for a crackdown on foreign trade cheats blamed by an increasingly vocal Congress for undercutting American industry and suppressing job recovery in recession-ravaged states like Ohio.
The group includes U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat and Rob Portman, a Republican, of Ohio. A bill introduced last week by the senators would require U.S. Customs and Border Protection to quickly investigate anti-dumping and duty evasion. Other sponsors include Ron Wyden, D-Ore., chair of the Senate Finance Committee’s subcommittee on Trade, Customs and Global Competitiveness; Olympia Snowe, R-Maine; Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.; Roy Blunt, R-Mo.; and Charles Schumer, D-NY.
The senators want a vote later this summer on the Enforcing Orders and Reducing Circumvention Evasion Act, or ENFORCE. Portman has said that in one example, drilling pipe worth $2.8 billion was unfairly dumped by China, devastating Ohio industry that makes similar pipe. Other dumped products include construction components, tainted honey, candles and woven sacks.
“Foreign companies who are not playing by the rules, harming Ohio workers and American taxpayers, should not be allowed to do an end-run around the law,” Portman said. Portman initiated the first legal case to be litigated and won against China before the World Trade Organization because of China’s unfair treatment of U.S.-made auto parts.
Countries such as China manipulate their currency and provide manufacturing subsidies to boost exports. The practices make a mockery of the notion of competition in foreign trade relationships such as free trade agreements, killing U.S. jobs, critics say.
Anti-dumping and countervailing duty orders are the U.S. government’s remedy, but exporters mislabel shipments and reroute goods through third-party countries to fool customs, Wyden said. His staff posed as merchants to expose the practices in a probe.
The legislation establishes a rapid response to allegations of evasion and requires Customs to determine within 90 days whether it’s reasonable to believe an importer is violating rules. Penalties would be collected in cash until an investigation concludes.
“Ohio manufacturers like Appleton, SmartPaper, and AK Steel can compete with anyone in the world. But when their competitors who face trade duties have proven they will go to any lengths to avoid paying duties, including by shipping the product through a third country,” Brown said. “Without strong trade enforcement, Ohio communities like West Carrollton and Hamilton would be without any recourse when its companies are pitted against unfairly subsidized imports.”He added: “Ohio manufacturers rely on trade enforcement laws, but when duties are so easily evaded, they become meaningless.’’
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