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W&M Holds Hearing with USTR Ambassador Lighthizer

March 22, 2018

This morning, Chairman Kevin Brady and members of the Ways and Means Committee had the opportunity to question U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Ambassador Robert Lighthizer on the Administration’s trade policy agenda – specifically the need to open new markets through the negotiation of new trade agreements, including the negotiations to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), as well as on the need to get it right in targeting enforcement actions against China without harming Americans.  Members highlighted the importance for our workers, producers, and consumers that  America continues to lead the world in defining what it means to have an open and free economy. 

At the hearing, many Members shared their desire to partner with the Administration and work with our allies to ensure that the recently announced steel and aluminum tariffs effectively target unfair trade without harming American consumers, workers, and job creators. Trade Subcommittee Chairman Dave Reichert (R-WA) said to Lighthizer:

In targeting unfair trade practices, we must take a targeted approach and work in cooperation with our global partners. We cannot take actions that put our consumers, manufacturers, and exporters at risk… 

It is American manufacturers and consumers who will be hurt by an ineffective exclusion process and the placement of tariffs on imports. I implore you to think about my constituents. For example, the family in Maple Valley who will face higher prices, the manufacturer in Auburn who will pay more or lose access to imported parts, and the apple exporter in Wenatchee who will suffer from retaliation.”

Minnesota Representative Erik Paulsen, Chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, agreed, saying that companies in his district are worried that tariffs will counteract many of the benefits they are seeing from the recent tax cuts:

“It seems like every time I talk to a Minnesota company, they have a lot of questions about this uncertainty and the current trade climate that we have. Now, they usually begin the conversation by talking about the real economic benefits that they are seeing – and have already seen – from the Tax Cuts and Jobs ActThey tell me how they are investing more into equipment, investing in their employees – and that’s a good thing. But then they will also talk about some of the bad news, regarding the new tariffs and maybe the threat to pull out of NAFTA.”

Mr. Paulsen also said that he wants to work together with the Administration to narrow the tariffs so that they aren’t placing any American jobs in jeopardy:

I support the President’s objective – and your objective – of really fighting for the American worker that needs that support, and helping employees of U.S. steel companies, but some of those gains are going to be swamped by some of the larger losses… And economists are now saying… that the United States would lose five jobs for every job created in steel and aluminum savings… And most of those jobs are production. They’re blue collar. They are exactly the kind of jobs that I think you and the President are intent on protecting.”

Another major topic of discussion at today’s hearing were the negotiations to update and modernize NAFTA. Specifically, Chairman Brady touched on the importance of maintaining the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism in NAFTA, and he announced that he joined with Representative Dave Schweikert (R-AZ), Trade Subcommittee Chairman Reichert, Senate Finance Committee Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and 99 other Republican lawmakers in sending a letter to Lighthizer last night about the importance of ISDS as Members consider whether to support the NAFTA negotiations. Today, Chairman Brady reiterated to Ambassador Lighthizer how critical is it that the final NAFTA deal include ISDS, saying:

 Your client is Congress. And speaking out for our ag community that wants you to have America’s back when they have to invest in other countries to win customers. Energy, manufacturing, technology, services – every key industry in America that has to compete against China and the rest of the world and other countries – is saying we need to have their back when they make their investments… We’re going to continue to work together with you, Mr. Ambassador, to get to a good place and make sure we’re keeping this in a trade agreement and that we have the backs of our American workers.”

Following discussion with Ambassador Lighthizer, Chairman Brady commended the progress the Administration has made in NAFTA and how important it is that the Administration continues to aggressively fight to lower barriers to trade for American workers and producers. He said: 

I see significant wins for [the] U.S. in energy, agriculture, telecommunications, digital trade, services, technology and manufacturing because you’re being so aggressive in these areas. We appreciate the work there.”

Chairman Brady closed the hearing by voicing his support for the Administration’s focus on modernizing NAFTA. He said:

“We’re confident in your ability in renegotiating NAFTA and other agreements to create a level playing field for American farmers and workers and businesses because when you do, we win. There’s no doubt that there’s strong support for your very aggressive stance in opening these markets and modernizing NAFTA.”