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Brady Opening Statement at Hearing with Commerce Secretary Ross on Trade Actions

March 22, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) today delivered the following opening statement at a full Committee hearing with Commerce Secretary Ross on recent trade actions, particularly the section 232 determinations on steel and aluminum.

Click here to watch the hearing.

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Today our Committee is honored to welcome Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to testify on recent trade actions, particularly the section 232 determinations on steel and aluminum.  Mr. Secretary, thank you for joining us.  We look forward to your testimony, which is very timely with tariffs set to take effect on aluminum and steel tomorrow.

“Congress takes our constitutionally mandated oversight role over trade policy very seriously. 

“I’ve had the opportunity to exchange views with President Trump, you, and other Administration officials recently on our shared urgent priority of addressing global overcapacity in aluminum and steel.  Several Members of this Committee addressed that point in our hearing with Ambassador Lighthizer yesterday.  I applaud the President for his leadership in insisting that we address this problem, and I know you have a key role. 

“I’m committed to working closely with you and the President to make sure we hit the target by dealing with the root problem of China’s persistent distortive policies while minimizing collateral damage to our economy.

“Mr. Secretary, your vast experience in international business and particularly in the steel sector have prepared you well. 

“You understand the complexity of modern supply chains that we must take into account when considering how any enforcement action will affect every part of our economy. 

“As you know, 108 House Republicans joined Chairman Reichert and me in writing to President Trump shortly before the Presidential Proclamations were issued to urge him to take a targeted approach on any tariffs.  We continue to highlight several priorities:

“Keeping tariffs targeted so they do not affect fairly traded products or products that don’t pose a national security threat;

“Utilizing a process to allow U.S. companies to petition for and promptly obtain exclusions for imports unavailable from U.S. sources or that don’t pose a national security threat;

“Grandfathering existing contracts;

“Reviewing tariffs on a short-term basis to consider if a different approach would better serve the U.S. national interest; and

“Setting a termination date.

“I welcome the President’s commitment to flexibility and cooperation toward our allies that trade fairly.  The exclusion of Canada and Mexico is an important first step in such flexibility – one I strongly support.  We can’t jeopardize our ability to incentivize other countries to cooperate on addressing our shared concerns with Chinese distortions. 

“And we don’t want to encourage other countries to restrict our exports.  Instead, we must tailor these tariffs so that Americans have certainty as they continue to trade fairly, sell American-made products to customers all over the world, and hire more workers here at home. 

“I know you’ll be hearing from many Committee Members today about specific improvements they want to the product exclusion process to avoid risking jobs in their districts.  In particular, as these tariffs go into effect tomorrow, I urge you to allow consolidation of petitions, retroactive application of exclusions to the date the petition was filed, and an exclusion period beyond the one year set out in your rules.  I’m also opposed to increasing tariffs on other products or countries as exclusions are made.

“These tariffs should be in place for the absolute minimum period.  Their effectiveness should be constantly studied.  They should be sunset after one year.  If they are not having the effect you intend, we should assess whether another policy would be more effective instead of continuing them.

“Tariffs are taxes – plain and simple – on American job creators and consumers.  Their scope and duration should never exceed what is needed to accomplish their goal.

“Along those lines, I also want to address the potential for section 301 tariffs.  I am just as frustrated as the Administration with China’s blatant theft of our intellectual property and the increasingly devious ways in which it steals or otherwise obtains our best technology. 

“But we need the right remedy – not one that punishes American families, workers, and small businesses by putting new taxes on the products they buy.  That won’t change China’s behavior.  At the very least, I urge the Administration to provide a robust opportunity for public comment so that the effect of tariffs on our economy can be properly assessed.   That would allow us to design our policies to hit the right target – China – not Americans who are dependent on us to look out for them.

“The strong, enforceable trade agreements we have built over many decades have expanded economic freedom so that our businesses, workers, and consumers can thrive. 

“Our ultimate goal for enforcement actions should be to advance U.S. interests by further opening markets to our goods, services, and agriculture in a manner that complies with our obligations.

“I’m encouraged to see the President’s dedication to strict enforcement of trade rules by putting into action new enforcement tools passed by Congress, including by ensuring U.S. industries can benefit from trade remedy laws and we can address circumvention and evasion of trade remedy orders. 

“Secretary Ross, I look forward to continuing our work on a pro-growth agenda that creates jobs and grows paychecks.  We’ve already had great success in improving the lives of all Americans through tax cuts and regulatory reform. 

“We must build on this success with an ambitious, pro-growth trade agenda that gives American exporters and importers greater certainty and more opportunities to trade fairly and win in the global marketplace.

“We look forward to your testimony.”