At White House Meeting, Sen. Brown Stands Up for American Workers Against Unfair Chinese Trade Practices

Brown, One of Three Senate Democrats on President’s Export Council, Presses Administration to Crack Down on Chinese Trade Barriers Like Currency Manipulation to Help Boost Exports

WASHINGTON, D.C. – At a White House meeting today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) urged the Obama Administration to take a stand against unfair and illegal Chinese trade practices—like currency manipulation—that undermine American exporters and manufacturers. Brown, who chairs the Senate Banking Subcommittee on Economic Policy and is one of three Senate Democrats on the President’s Export Council, pointed to the Chinese coated paper investigation before the International Trade Commission today as a way the Administration can stand up for American workers against currency manipulation.

“If we’re serious about doubling exports over the next five years, we must crack down on illegal Chinese practices that undermine American manufacturers,” Brown said. “Ohio workers can compete with anyone in the world, but when China manipulates its currency or gives unfair subsidies to its industries, that’s not competing – it’s cheating. Promoting the value of exporting to new markets is not going to be enough; vigorous trade enforcement is vital if we are going to achieve this goal. We cannot double exports and create jobs unless we address predatory trade practices – and China’s currency manipulation is at the top of the list of obstacles facing our workers and producers.”

President’s Export Council – Doubling Exports Over the Next Five Years

This morning, Brown attended the President’s Export Council meeting at the White House, where President Obama outlined details of his plan to double exports over the next five years. Brown is one of three Senate Democrats appointed to the President’s Export Council, the principal national advisory committee on international trade.

"An aggressive export and trade enforcement strategy will help revitalize American manufacturing," Brown said of his appointment. "Ohio's entrepreneurs and business owners produce high-quality goods and cutting-edge technologies that should be sold around the world. As we rebuild our economy, we need to ensure that our nation's companies have access to a global market. That means we enforce trade laws and help American manufacturers export to new markets. This will help small businesses generate sales, create jobs, and strengthen communities across our state.”

According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), companies that export products experience faster annual growth, pay higher wages to employees, and are more likely to stay in business. President Obama has introduced the National Export Initiative, with the goal of doubling American exports within the next five years.

Brown has held a series of export promotion seminars around Ohio to help companies utilize federal resources that help boost American exports.

Cracking Down on Chinese Currency Manipulation

In remarks submitted to the Senate Banking Committee for a hearing entitled “The Treasury Department’s Report on International Economic and Exchange Rate Policies,” Brown pressed U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to address the critical issue of Chinese currency manipulation.

“I appreciate Secretary Geithner’s work to address trade imbalances through the G20 and bilaterally with the Chinese. I agree we should continue to talk with the Chinese on this issue,” Brown said. “But we cannot just sit and talk when we have tools to address the imbalance caused by currency manipulation.”

In March 2010, Brown joined a bipartisan ground of senators to introduce legislation that would amend the Exchange Rates and International Economic Policy Coordination Act of 1988 to clarify the definition of manipulation with respect to currency, reduce the global account surplus requirement necessary for the United States to take action (only requires bilateral account surplus), and establish additional reporting guidelines for Treasury to include in their bi-annual reports to Congress.

A full copy of Brown’s statement can be found here.

Standing Up for Coated Paper Producers in Miamisburg and Hamilton, Ohio

Brown submitted testimony to an International Trade Commission hearing held today to determine whether coated paper imports from China and Indonesia are adversely impacting American suppliers of the same products. In his testimony, Brown urged the ITC to make a decision in favor of the American coated paper producers—including NewPage Corporation in Miamisburg, Ohio and SMART Papers in Hamilton, Ohio—that have been hit hard by these illegally subsidized imports.

“In Ohio, and across this country, manufacturing matters.  But we’re at risk of letting our coated paper industry slip away if we continue to allow the anticompetitive practices of foreign companies to undermine the economic health of our producers,” said Brown. “This translates not only into jobs lost in the coated paper industry but also in the communities that support them.”

“Our trade laws are indispensible.  In the global market, it can be difficult to address situations in which free market competition based on sound pricing, solid workmanship, and efficiency, gives way to corrupted competition distorted by subsidies, dumping, and other anticompetitive practices,” Brown continued. “These remedies, when properly applied, defend against the type of unfair competition currently faced by the U.S. coated paper industry and its workers.” 

A full copy of Brown’s testimony can be found here.

Brown has been a strong advocate for American workers and businesses in similar cases before the ITC. He testified on Tuesday in a case on behalf of steel tube workers in Lorain and Youngstown, and testified before the ITC in December 2009 on a similar steel pipe issue. The ITC’s earlier ruling led to a border measure on imports to support domestic producers of steel pipe like V&M Star and Wheatland Tube in Warren. By addressing illegal Chinese trade practices, this decision helped increase demand for domestic production. It also played a positive factor in V&M Star’s decision to build a new, $650 million seamless pipe mill in Youngstown, bringing hundreds of jobs along with it.

Critical Legislation to Address Unfair Foreign Trade

In Nov. 2009, Brown introduced the Trade Reform, Accountability, Development, and Employment (TRADE) Act which would require a review of our trade agreements and set forth principles on labor, the environment, and food and product safety.

He also introduced the Trade Enforcement Priorities Act  and the Reciprocal Market Access Act of 2009 to empower the United States Trade Representative - the president's primary trade negotiator - to ensure meaningful market access for U.S. products before lowering U.S. tariffs.

The Trade Enforcement Priorities Act would reinstate “Super 301” authority which lapsed under the Bush Administration. The mechanism would allow the U.S. Trade Representative to crack down on some of the most egregious trade barriers like currency manipulation.

“This bill is about requiring our trading partners to live up to their obligations so that trade agreements benefit American workers and businesses instead of shortchanging them,” Brown said of the bill’s introduction. “For too long, our government has shirked its responsibility of enforcing the rules written to prevent lopsided trade agreements, at the expense of American businesses and workers. When U.S. companies abide by the rules and foreign companies don’t, that’s not trade – it’s a foreign jobs program. Reviving Super 301, with an emphasis on fixing unfair trade practices that cost American jobs, will promote exports and economic growth. The U.S. Trade Representative must be an advocate for American workers and businesses, not an apologist for trading partners who aren’t playing by the rules.”

Sections 301-310 of the Trade Act of 1974 address trade barriers that violate U.S. rights under a trade agreement or represent discriminatory practices that undermine U.S. Commerce. Section 310 of the act, also known as “Super 301,” requires the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to examine and report on the most egregious trade barriers that adversely affect American exports. If the USTR identifies a measure as a “priority foreign country practice,” it is required to initiate a full Section 301 investigation. Super 301 is intended to promote U.S. exports and to signal to our trading partners that certain actions which adversely affect U.S. commerce will warrant immediate action.

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