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Introducing Legislation to Expand the Discretionary Authority of the U.S. Trade Representative

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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* Mr. BLUMENAUER. Madam Speaker, today I am introducing legislation to expand the discretionary authority of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to take action under section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. Specifically, the legislation would allow USTR to investigate and impose sanctions on countries whose trade practices are found to be unfair to U.S. interests by failing to enforce foreign country environmental laws. Specifically, USTR will have discretionary authority to take action if it finds a persistent pattern of conduct that indicates a trading partner:

* (I) Fails to effectively enforce the environmental laws of a foreign country;

* (II) Waives or otherwise derogates from the environmental laws of a foreign country or weakens the protections afforded by such laws;

* (III) Fails to provide for judicial or administrative proceedings giving access to remedies for violations of the environmental laws of a foreign country; or

* (IV) Fails to provide appropriate and effective sanctions or remedies for violations of the environmental laws of a foreign country.

* This authority is very similar to existing authority held by USTR to enforce labor rights around the world.

* My support for international trade agreements has always been predicated on the notion that agreements establish a fair, rules-based trading regime. The economy of my state is heavily trade-dependent. Oregon's iconic brands would not exist without strong international trading relationships. Oregon's largest private employer, Intel, is a product of the international market for high-tech products. The Port of Portland's distribution centers alone create 17,000 jobs, $810 million in wages and other personal income, and $2.8 billion in business revenues. Ensuring a level playing field in U.S. trading relationships is vital to protecting these jobs and to ensuring public support for a forward-looking, optimistic approach to trade policy.

* Allowing our trading partners to derogate from their environmental laws provides an unfair advantage to their businesses and allows those businesses to unfairly undercut U.S. companies, which operate under strong environmental protections. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that trade remains free and open, but, in incorporating environmental and labor protections, also meets basic expectations of fairness.

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