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Smith: Democrats Aren’t Serious About Holding China Accountable on Trade

February 02, 2022

Republican Leader of the Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE) urged his colleagues to confront China’s unfair trade practices on a bipartisan basis at a House Rules Committee hearing on Democrats’ so-called competition bill that really concedes to China. .


Rep. Smith’s remarks as prepared for delivery appear below.


Thank you, Chairman McGovern and Ranking Member Cole, for having me today. My remarks today will likely echo the remarks of many of Republican colleagues participating in this meeting today. 


To be frank, this bill proves Democrats in Congress aren’t serious about confronting China and holding them accountable for their predatory trade practices.    


Much of this legislation was developed behind closed doors, without public hearings or consultations, and no Committee process. How can the United States seriously stand up to China without a united, bipartisan front in Congress? 


Instead of even attempting to put together a bipartisan bill, House Democrats, under the direction of Speaker Pelosi, are pushing a highly partisan bill stuffed with more Washington control over the economy and ideological pandering to Democrats’ political base. 


This stands in stark contrast to the Senate which took a serious, bipartisan approach that included hearings and public consultations to craft the United States Innovation and Competition Act.   


The trade title of this legislation falls squarely within the jurisdiction of the Ways and Means Committee. This title was not put together or made public until last week, was the subject of zero Committee hearings or markups, and is filled with unvetted ideas that could have a significant negative impact on the United States economy. 


Sound familiar? No, this isn’t “Build Back Better.”


Instead of this partisan, rushed bill, the United States needs a smart and bipartisan approach to trade and China that includes an ambitious trade negotiating agenda, especially in the Indo-Pacific, that sets high standards and opens new markets for American goods and services.


We also need vigorous enforcement of the Phase One Agreement that President Trump achieved with China, not vague commitments to enforce it that we have heard so far from the Biden Administration.


This legislation needs to instruct the Administration to get serious about engagement in the Indo-Pacific region—but as reported earlier this week, the Biden Administration’s plan for competing in the region consists of a single 51-word paragraph from last October. 


We need action, not endless reviews and statements. 


Representatives LaHood and Miller have put forward substantive legislation, with bipartisan support, that addresses this urgent priority. But it was ignored by House Democrats in this context. 


I have also offered an amendment that would renew Trade Promotion Authority so that the United States can have the tools we need to reestablish our leadership role on trade, but I understand that that amendment will be ruled out of order. 


Perhaps if the Ways and Means Committee had a serious process for considering this legislation, we would have had the opportunity to shape it in a meaningful way. 


I am confident that, if given the opportunity by Democratic leadership, we could have come together on a bipartisan basis to author serious legislation to outcompete China while holding it accountable for its vast range of unfair trade practices. 


Instead, we are stuck with a progressive wishlist that undermines our competitive position. For example, the inclusion of a partisan Trade Adjustment Assistance renewal—taken straight from “Build Back Better”—will cost the Government over $22 billion and will further discourage recipients from returning to the workforce through decreased program accountability. I wish I could say this was surprising.


Another example is the Democrats’ partisan approach to renewing the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). I think Members on both sides of the aisle want to see the GSP renewed in a way that strengthens our trading relationships with developing countries. 


However, because of House Democrats’ partisanship in insisting that GSP include radical environmental criteria that would allow consideration of compliance with climate commitments under the Paris Agreement, this important program has been expired for over a year now. 


This is unacceptable, especially when the Senate has put forward a commonsense, bipartisan GSP approach that House Republicans strongly support. 


These are just a few examples of the partisan position on trade House Democrats have taken in this legislation. I would be happy to discuss others, as well. 


In closing, I urge my colleagues to oppose this partisan bill, and instead pursue a bipartisan approach to crafting China legislation.