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Letter to Barack Obama, President of the United States - Businesses Fighting Trade Practices Conducted Abroad

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today sent a letter to President Obama calling for stronger action on behalf of U.S. businesses and workers competing against unfair trade practices conducted abroad, particularly the manipulation of currency by the Chinese government to unfairly boost exports. Brown, who is a Congressionally-appointed member of the President's Export Council, urged the President to do more to combat these unfairly-subsidized imports and for the U.S. Department of Commerce and other federal agencies to "use the available trade enforcement authorities provided by Congress to ensure a level playing field for U.S. businesses and the workers upon which they rely."

"There is no doubt that the Chinese government is manipulating its currency to keep its value lower than it otherwise would be which gives its exports a significant price advantage over U.S. manufactured goods. We are gravely concerned by the Administration's failure to address China's currency practices and other predatory actions," the letter reads. "In particular, the Administration has not actively used the trade enforcement authorities and tools it has to defend American manufacturers and workers against unfairly subsidized imports."

"An effective strategy to enforce trade commitments includes steps to combat currency manipulation, the evasion of trade remedy duties, and foreign non-tariff trade barriers. A framework that provides for a balanced approach to trade will enable the Congress to support a comprehensive trade agenda and the key nominees that are required to implement it," the letter continues. "During this economic recovery, it is critical the Administration use all trade enforcement tools available to ensure U.S. industries the opportunity to compete fairly and export goods and services."

The letter was also signed by Senators Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jim Bunning (R-KY), Arlen Specter (D-PA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Carl Levin (D-MI). Brown is the author of S.1982, The Trade Enforcement Priorities Act-legislation that would give the federal government more authority to address trade barriers that undermine American workers and manufacturing. This includes the reinstatement of Super 301 authority, which provides support to the U.S. Trade Representative to combat export barriers.

The full letter to President Obama is below.

August 4, 2010

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Ave, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Obama:

We are looking forward to the release of the National Export Initiative this September, as outlined in Executive Order 13534. We support the goal to double exports in the next five years, and are committed to working with the Administration and the private sector to achieve that goal.

Nevertheless, the focus on growing exports must not and cannot come at the expense of ensuring a fair playing field for our manufacturers. American manufacturers -- forced to compete against the predatory practices of one of our major trading partners -- are struggling to stay solvent. And, to state the obvious, we need a strong, healthy manufacturing sector if we truly hope to achieve our goal of doubling exports in the next five years.

There is no doubt that the Chinese government is manipulating its currency to keep its value lower than it otherwise would be which gives its exports a significant price advantage over U.S. manufactured goods. We are gravely concerned by the Administration's failure to address China's currency practices and other predatory actions. In particular, the Administration has not actively used the trade enforcement authorities and tools it has to defend American manufacturers and workers against unfairly subsidized imports.

We believe that a vital component of an export and jobs expansion strategy is a trade agenda that places as much priority on combating unfair trade practices as on obtaining commitments to open foreign markets to American goods and services. Imports are now surging into the U.S. - they are growing much faster than exports - and failure to address those that receive foreign subsidies or benefit from currency manipulation undermine the nation's export and economic objectives.

An effective strategy to enforce trade commitments includes steps to combat currency manipulation, the evasion of trade remedy duties, and foreign non-tariff trade barriers. A framework that provides for a balanced approach to trade will enable the Congress to support a comprehensive trade agenda and the key nominees that are required to implement it.

China's actions to subsidize its exports pose both immediate and long-term challenges to American manufacturers and workers still recovering from the economic recession. While we recognize the Chinese government recently allowed its currency to begin to appreciate, the path towards its currency appreciating to a true market-based value remains long. Until that happens, the fair implementation of trade remedy laws is required to provide industries a life-line to compete. If one manufacturer is forced to close because we fail to combat subsidized imports, that is one less manufacturer able to export goods abroad.

The Commerce Department is continuing to delay consideration of allegations from domestic coated paper producers and aluminum extrusion producers that China's currency manipulation is a countervailable subsidy. This delay is indefensible. The law is straightforward - it requires that the Commerce Department initiate an investigation to determine whether a countervailable subsidy is provided if the domestic industry "alleges" the elements necessary for the imposition of a countervailing duty and provides "information reasonably available" to the domestic industry supporting the allegations.

We believe the Commerce Department has the capability to apply the correct legal standard for assessment of an allegation and has the authority under current law to do so. It is all the more troubling, therefore, that the Department has refused for many months to even investigate the allegations and evidence provided by domestic manufacturers that China's currency practices provide a countervailable subsidy.

During this economic recovery, it is critical the Administration use all trade enforcement tools available to ensure U.S. industries the opportunity to compete fairly and export goods and services. We encourage you to consider whether the Commerce Department and other federal agencies are doing their part to use the available trade enforcement authorities provided by the Congress to ensure a level playing field for U.S. businesses and the workers upon which they rely. This includes ensuring foreign producers do not evade legitimate anti-dumping and countervailing duties.

We are eager to work with you to address these issues and to move forward with trade policies that promote exports, long-term economic growth and job creation.

Sincerely,

Sherrod Brown
Olympia J. Snowe
Charles E. Schumer
Debbie Stabenow
Jim Bunning
Arlen Specter
Susan Collins
Ron Wyden
Benjamin L. Cardin
Robert P. Casey, Jr.
Carl Levin


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