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Public Statements

Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users - Continued

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


TRANSPORTATION EQUITY ACT: A LEGACY FOR USERS--Continued

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I rise today to show my strong support for the Bayh amendment on countervailing duties, and I ask unanimous consent to be added as a cosponsor.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

Ms. STABENOW. I commend my friend and colleague from Indiana for his vision on the issue of what we need to do to create a level playing field for our businesses and workers. This is an important amendment.

I have spoken forcefully about our need to address the unfair trade practices of those with whom we trade. A necessary step in this process is to change those U.S. laws that hinder our industries from operating on a level playing field. That is what this amendment addresses. Our businesses, our workers have an expectation that we will provide a level playing field for them, and we need to deliver on that. This amendment is a good step in that direction.

Unfair trade practices are hurting our U.S. manufacturers and costing jobs. In my State of Michigan, I regret to say, we now have the highest unemployment rate in the country. At the time when our Nation's countervailing duty laws were approved in 1979, the Department of Commerce decided it was impracticable to apply those laws to nonmarket economies such as China due to the difficulty of determining what defines a government subsidy within the context of a state-controlled economy.

However, since that time, many nonmarket economies have undertaken significant economic reforms that have liberalized the state control over their economies. Unfortunately, however, some of these nations, such as China, refuse to comply with standard international trading rules and practices and use subsidies and other economic incentives to give their producers an unfair competitive advantage. This has a direct impact on job loss in Michigan, as well as in other States.

As we all know--and it has been documented--these subsidies range from currency manipulation, to providing below interest rate loans to less than creditworthy companies, to providing preferential access to raw materials and other input. I should mention that I was very proud to be a part of the effort to get a very strong vote a few weeks ago; 67 Members on both sides of the aisle joined to send a message both to the White House and to China that we expect China to stop manipulating their currency, which means it costs more for us to sell to them than for them to sell to us. It is part of what we need to do to level the playing field. I hope that because we have joined together in the vote we had on a very strong bipartisan basis, we will see the same kind of vote on this Bayh amendment.

I will give you a few examples of how this hurts Michigan manufacturers and workers directly. Counterfeit automotive products are a very big problem in Michigan. Not only does it kill American jobs, but it has the potential to kill Americans as cheap, shoddy automotive products replace legitimate ones of higher quality. The American automotive parts components industry loses an estimated $12 billion in sales on a global basis to counterfeiting. This must stop. We don't even keep statistics on the potential loss of life.

The United States is losing manufacturing jobs as a direct result of China's policies. China's policies have cost our economy 1.5 million jobs in the last 15 years and 51,000 jobs alone in Michigan. These job losses are hurting all of our manufacturers, from apple juice, to auto parts, to clothing, to furniture.

At this stage, U.S. industries have no direct recourse to combat subsidies used by nonmarket economies. They must rely upon the Federal Government to negotiate a settlement, or on the dispute settlement processes of international organizations, such as the WTO.

Why do we put such a strain on our own businesses? The remedies available currently might eventually lead to relief, but it takes years to see relief. We are losing jobs every day. There are headlines every day in Michigan about job loss. We have to have a sense of urgency here in the Senate and in the Congress and in the White House.

The Bayh amendment would change the situation to ensure that nonmarket economies are subject to the same countervailing duty laws as all other trading nations.

At a recent Finance Committee hearing on his nomination, Congressman Portman said he thinks ``we ..... need an additional focus on China. After a top-to-bottom review, I would plan to shift some resources, including some people to that effort.''

I certainly encourage him to do that. I also want to indicate at this time that Congressman Portman indicated support for a focus on creating an international trade prosecutor, or some people in his office who would focus on the role of prosecutor more broadly on those other countries that are violating rules. Senator Bayh has been a champion of that effort, and I am very proud he has joined with me and Senator Graham in South Carolina in introducing specific legislation that relates to creating an international trade prosecutor as well. All of these pieces are important. We have taken one step to sending a message to China and to the administration that we expect them to address the issue of currency manipulation.

Now, this amendment is a very important piece in leveling the playing field for our businesses and our workers. I also urge that we incorporate an international trade prosecutor who will be our American voice for business and for workers on the broad issue of continuing to make sure the rules are fair. I think these pieces together create hope for the people we represent, whom we, in fact, would stand up for and stand up for American jobs.

While I have the floor, I want to speak briefly about something else that also relates to American jobs. In addition to this important amendment, we will be focusing on the broader issue of a strong SAFETEA Transportation bill. I am hopeful that we are going to get this done as quickly as possible. I am pleased that we have begun the process of debating this critical issue.

The snow finally has melted in Michigan--at least for the moment--and we are in the beginning of a new construction season. During the budget debate, I was pleased to join with Senator Talent to lead an effort on an amendment to help the Senate produce a well-funded Transportation bill. I know Senator Grassley and Senator Baucus are working hard to help strengthen this bill that is in front of us.

As my colleagues know, this bill isn't just about improving roads and transit systems and buses, but it is about creating jobs. Again, it is absolutely critical that we do everything possible to create American jobs and do it as quickly as possible. The Transportation bill is one of the fastest ways that we can bring good-paying jobs back to our States.

The Department of Transportation estimates that every $1 billion of highway spending creates 47,500 new, good-paying jobs, and it generates more than $2 billion in economic activity.

Mr. President, we need this bill now. If there are efforts to extend it, we need to have it be a short extension beyond May 31. My preference is to get this done before the end of May because we are going to lose another construction season if we do not. We in Michigan have projects ready to go the minute this bill is signed. It is absolutely critical that we get this done as soon as possible.

Over the last 4 years, Michigan has lost jobs. This bill, as I said, would create good-paying jobs that would help thousands of our families in Michigan. We are not talking about minimum wage jobs, we are talking about well-paying jobs, good-paying jobs that help families pay their mortgages and save for retirement and put their children through school.

Last year's bipartisan Senate bill that passed overwhelmingly would have created over 99,000 jobs in Michigan alone. It is my hope that the Senate will pass another strong bill. I understand that the House and the White House did not support the effort that we passed. Even though it was an important bipartisan effort and it showed in the Senate the best about governing, in my opinion, and people worked very hard on both sides of the aisle, it is very unfortunate that this was not supported by the House or the White House. Now we have a bill back in front of us and we need to make it the best we can possibly make it so that we are creating jobs and meeting the needs of our communities. We cannot fix the problems that we have in our States in terms of infrastructure and traffic congestion and issues of jobs and so on without the very best bill possible.

I am very hopeful--and I will do everything within my power, working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle--to get the fairest, best bill that we can for the people we represent and to get that as quickly as we possibly can.

Mr. President, I urge my colleagues to support the Bayh amendment and to move on to put together the final bill in the best way possible for both those States such as mine, which are donor States, as well as for the other States around the country, so that we can create the jobs that are needed as quickly as possible.

I yield the floor.

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