Representatives from an unlikely coalition of industries – chicken, steel, soybeans, and pharmaceuticals – came together on Wednesday to testify before the U.S. Senate Finance Committee on the need for stronger trade enforcement. The business groups asked Congress to step up its game regulating international trade when it comes to protecting American business interests from unfair foreign competition and negotiating trade agreements that standardize compliance requirements around the world.
“Only when there are real teeth in trade agreements will the U.S. be able to use enforcement tools to protect our interests,” testified Richard Wilkins, treasurer of the American Soybean Association.
Mario Longhi president of U.S. Steel, and Leo Girard, international president of United Steelworkers, complained about the onerous requirements and time involved in taking retaliatory action against foreign competitors engaging in unfair practices such as dumping products at below normal values and creating networks of shell companies to circumvent U.S. trade laws. They expressed particular concern about South Korea, which they alleged is selling oil pipe for less than it costs to produce in an attempt to put the American steel industry out of business.
Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said he has been working since 2011 to pass a bill standardizing trade investigations and refocusing U.S. Customs officers on trade enforcement.
“Proper trade enforcement is an increasingly difficult job,” Mr. Wyden said. “It takes time, and the fact is that it’s impossible to stand up a trade case in a single day. But it’s essential for enforcement agencies to have the resources needed to do their jobs effectively. Too often, when these cases lag, American workers are losing their jobs and businesses are closing their doors. Succeeding in the global economy is already challenging enough; the U.S. cannot add to the difficulty by underfunding its enforcement efforts.”
“When enforcement is weak, slow or does not exist, we struggle to level the playing field,” said Bart Peterson of pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Co. “While enforcing compliance with the provisions of existing trade agreements is fundamental, it is equally important to have the highest standards enshrined in new agreements.”
Click here to read transcripts from the hearings and/or view the video (skip ahead 40 mins. for the start of the hearing).