WASHINGTON, D.C. — In advance of this week’s fifth U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) in Washington, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) urged the Obama Administration to press China on several issues which affect American workers and businesses. In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew, Brown asked the Administration to address unfair and illegal trade practices, currency manipulation, cyber-attacks and intellectual property (IP) theft, and human rights abuses. Brown also released today an index of the effects of China’s trade, economic, labor, and environmental policy on the U.S. economy, including the U.S. trade deficit with China that has eclipsed $315 billion.
“The numbers speak for themselves: American workers and companies can’t afford more talk with China without action,” Brown said. “Congress should act on issues like currency manipulation and intellectual property theft, and we need to improve China’s capacity to tackle serious environmental problems. Secretary Kerry and Secretary Lew should use this week’s U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue as an opportunity to push China towards addressing these very serious challenges.”
At the S&ED, Kerry and Lew will serve as Special Representatives to President Obama and will be joined by their respective Chinese co-chairs, State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Vice Premier Wang Yang, along with members of the Chinese delegation and their U.S. colleagues. Specifically, Brown urged Kerry and Lew to push China towards more aggressive measures to:
- Combat the pervasiveness of trade secret theft, which has strained international business and government ties and risks economic instability by failing to protect the ideas of the producers of goods. According to Brown’s index released today, the U.S. suffered estimated material losses of more than $1 billion in 2009 and a 12.9 percent decrease in its employment. Late last month, Brown chaired a Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) hearing entitled, “Chinese Hacking: Impact on Human Rights and Commercial Rule of Law.” The purpose of the hearing was to examine the impact of Chinese cyber-attacks on American businesses and the human rights community. As China pursues indigenous innovation policies aimed at boosting Chinese companies and creating national champions, cyber-attacks from China have increased, leading to enormous losses to U.S. jobs, IP, and economic competitiveness.
- Address Chinese state-owned enterprises. Because of the government subsidies China allots its state-owned enterprises, as well as its lax environmental, labor, and other industrial standards, American products are oftentimes more expensive than Chinese products, putting U.S. companies at a significant disadvantage in the international market. According to Brown’s report, the average Chinese manufacturing firms in 2009 paid its employees a $1.74 hourly wage.
- Improve environmental regulations and reduce pollution that puts the health of Chinese citizens at risk and taints the products China exports to the United States. According to Brown’s report, in 2010 there were 1.2 million premature deaths in China linked to outdoor air pollution. In fact, of the world’s 10 most polluted cities, seven reside in China. In May, Brown chaired a CECC hearing to address transparency and accountability as it relates to “Food and Drug Safety, Public Health, and the Environment in China.”
- Safeguard human rights of Chinese citizens, including the right to free speech, access to information, and freedom of the press; free political prisoners whose only “offense” is criticizing the Chinese government; and promoting more inclusive policies in Tibetan and Uyghur ethnic minority areas.
- Cease manipulation of its currency, which distorts trade and weakens the global economy. According to a 2012 report by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, currency manipulation by foreign governments like China cost the U.S. between 1 million and 5 million jobs and increases its trade deficit by $200 billion to $500 billion per year. Brown introduced the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act of 2013, bipartisan legislation that would reform and enhance oversight of currency exchange rates. Specifically, the bill would use U.S. trade law to counter the economic harm to U.S. manufacturers caused by currency manipulation, and provide consequences for countries that fail to adopt appropriate policies to eliminate currency misalignment. Brown’s introduction came in advance of talks between President Obama and Chinese President Xi later that week in California.
According to the State and Treasury departments, the S&ED is the highest-level bilateral forum between the United States and China in order to address the challenges and opportunities that both countries face on a wide range of bilateral, regional, and global areas of immediate and long-term economic and strategic interest. The S&ED was established in April 2009 by President Obama and Chinese President Hu following an earlier series of talks first initiated in 2006 by the Bush Administration.
Brown is co-chair of the CECC, which Congress created in 2000 to monitor China’s compliance with international human rights standards, to encourage the development of the rule of law in the People’s Republic of China, and to establish and maintain a list of victims of human rights abuses in China. The Commission submits an annual report to the President and Congress on these subjects.