U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, sponsor of the "American Competitiveness Plan", today urged her colleagues to pass her plan to hold other countries accountable when they abuse international trade rules at the expense of American businesses. Stabenow, a long-time leader of the effort to stop illegal trade practices, pointed to new findings of the Senate Armed Services Committee on counterfeit electronics being sold to the Department of Defense. Sen. Carl Levin, who chairs the Armed Services Committee, held a hearing today on the risk these counterfeits - manufactured mostly in China - pose to our national security and the threat to men and women in the military.
Stabenow's American Competitiveness Plan would create a trade prosecutor to crack down on illegal trade practices like counterfeiting that affects our national and our economic security. It would also strengthen customs security to catch intellectual property thieves and counterfeiters.
"Our country needs to be exporting our products, not our jobs. Foreign countries stealing our businesses' technology threatens our economic security," said Sen. Stabenow. "As Sen. Levin's hearing showed, it threatens our national security as well. It's long-past time for Congress to get tough with other countries who are violating international trade laws to gain an advantage."
Stabenow's American Competitiveness Plan consists of three parts:
* Cracking down on currency manipulation: China and several other countries illegally and intentionally devalue their currency in relation to the dollar to make their own goods artificially cheaper. By some estimates, China's goods may be up to 40% cheaper than American goods solely because of China's currency manipulation-meaning a product made in Michigan may cost $100, while a Chinese product made of the same materials and produced in the exact same way would cost $60. The Stabenow-cosponsored currency bill would require the U.S. government to act to stop currency manipulation through the World Trade Organization and level the playing field by putting duties on the goods of countries that break the rules to offset the effects of manipulation. (This provision passed the Senate on October 11)
* Creating a trade prosecutor to hold other countries accountable: Other countries abuse international trade law at the expense of American businesses and too often face no retribution. In fact, former Secretary of Commerce Mickey Kantor testified at a recent Finance Committee hearing that the U.S. has the smallest trade enforcement office of any industrialized country, despite having entered into more than 300 trade agreements. Senator Stabenow's Competitiveness Plan would create a trade prosecutor whose sole responsibility would be to identify ways that other countries are breaking international trade law and bring them to justice.
* Stopping the theft of American ideas and technologies: Foreign companies constantly violate international intellectual property laws, engaging in the outright theft of American entrepreneurs' ideas and our country's cutting edge technologies. Senator Stabenow's American Competitiveness Plan contains a number of measures to attack intellectual property theft. The first provision is a new "three strikes and you're out" law for foreign importers of counterfeit goods -a violator would get fined on the first offense, banned from doing business in America for one year after the 2nd offense, and if a violator gets caught three times-they will never be allowed to do business in the United States ever again. Other provisions include new fines for violators, the creation of a "watch list" to alert customs and border security about shipments from those suspected of breaking the law and more resources for customs agents to focus on intellectual property theft and counterfeiting.
Stabenow, a member of the President's Export Council under both Presidents Bush and Obama, said that Michigan exports are on the rise and are a bright spot in Michigan's economy. Last year, Michigan exported over $44 billion worth of goods and services-a 37% increase over 2009. Michigan is now the 8th largest exporting state in the country. As the Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Stabenow specifically noted that Michigan agricultural exports increased by 50% between 2004 and 2009. Stabenow said given the promise increased exports have for our state's economy, getting tough on other countries who cheat international trade laws is especially important for Michigan.