Brown Unveils New Report Highlighting How WTO Undermines U.S. Trade Enforcement, Hurts American Workers

Senator Calls on Trump Administration to Reset Trade Relationship with China

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today unveiled a new report from the Alliance for American Manufacturing highlighting how the World Trade Organization (WTO) undermines the United States’ ability to enforce its trade laws and protect American workers. Brown used the report to outline how the WTO allows trade violations to go unchecked, particularly as it relates to China, and has cracked down on U.S. laws meant to fight back against illegal competition.

Brown also called on the Trump Administration to reset the U.S. trade relationship with China. On Monday, the Financial Times reported that the Administration was seeking ways to bypass the WTO in order to impose direct sanctions on China for trade violations. 

“As this report shows, in decision after decision, the WTO has ruled against the U.S. and weakened our laws designed to fight back against subsidies and illegal dumping,” said Brown. “Rather than providing American steel companies with a way to crack down on Chinese cheating, the WTO has undermined the tools our businesses need to defend themselves and their workers. We need a reset of our trade relationship with China, starting with a reset at the WTO. This is something I’ve called for, and I’m encouraged by the news from the White House this week that they’re preparing a plan to bypass the WTO and take direct action against China and other countries where we have trade disputes.”

The report outlines how WTO decisions have weakened U.S. trade enforcement laws and made it more difficult to crack down on countries, like China, who violate international trade rules and hurt American workers. The report identifies specific industries, including the steel industry, that have been the subject of these disputes and harmed by WTO decisions.

Brown has urged presidents of both parties to address China’s unfair trade practices and take concrete steps to protect American workers. 

In November, Sen. Brown wrote a letter to President Trump offering specific ways to work together in order to overhaul U.S. trade policy to put workers first and hold China to its trade obligations. Specifically, Brown called on Trump to work with him to fight currency manipulation, maintain China’s nonmarket economy status, and crack down on China’s steel overcapacity, which has led to job losses in Ohio and nationwide.  

Brown joined Sen. Portman in a letter last year to former U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman urging him to bring a World Trade Organization (WTO) case against China in an effort to address aluminum overcapacity, which hurts American aluminum manufacturers and their workers. Brown also led a letter with Portman to President Obama seeking continued efforts from the Administration to reduce China’s excess steel capacity through enhanced trade enforcement. 

Brown’s legislation, the Leveling the Playing Field Act, cosponsored by Portman and signed into law in June 2015, has restored strength to antidumping and countervailing duty statutes that allow businesses and workers in the United States to petition the Commerce Department and the ITC when foreign producers, including China, sell goods in the U.S. below market price or receive illegal subsidies. The law led to key wins for Ohio steel companies in major trade cases last year on cold-rolled, hot-rolled, and corrosion-resistant steel, including U.S. Steel, Nucor, ArcelorMittal, and AK Steel, which together employ more than 8,200 Ohio workers.

Brown was joined on the call by Scott Paul, President of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, and Elizabeth Drake, a co-author of the report.

“Given that many WTO decisions, and in particular rulings by its appellate body, have stunningly overreached and unfairly targeted U.S. trade enforcement measures, we must consider all of our options at this moment. Factory workers in Ohio and across America deserve better,” said Paul.

“We thank Senator Brown for his leadership on securing a trade policy that will benefit American manufacturing and our workers. As the trade agenda of the Senate and Administration begins to take shape, bolstering our trade enforcement tools and reigning in the WTO should be two of our top priorities.”

The full report, published by the Alliance for American Manufacturing, can be found here.

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