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At A New York City Port, Ways and Means Committee Hears How Improved Trade Enforcement is Needed to Counter China’s Unfair Trade Practices and Allow American Workers to Compete and Win

May 13, 2023

NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. – Outside at the Staten Island port, the Ways and Means Committee held a field hearing with Americans on the front line of America’s trade relationships. The conversation highlighted how China’s unfair trade practices are hurting American workers, job creators, and farmers, and how America must use trade enforcement tools to ensure farmers maintain fair access to export markets and protect workers’ roles at the center of our trade policy. Witnesses testified about China’s human rights abuses and illicit trade tactics, such as forced labor and American intellectual property theft, that the CCP is deploying to achieve its scheme of dominating the global economy.

Also highlighted was the importance of countering China’s rising influence around the world, securing our supply chain, and ensuring the voices of workers, farmers, and job creators are reflected in the future of U.S. trade policy.

The hearing was held outdoors at the Global Containers Terminal on Staten Island, the first time the Ways and Means Committee has held an outdoor hearing in a century. Witnesses included the first U.S.-educated Uyghur-American lawyer, the Co-CEO of a titanium dioxide company that is investing in rare earth mineral processing in the United States, a 38-year veteran of the marine cargo industry, and a second-generation dairy and produce farmer, and President of United Steel Workers Local 135.

America’s Trade Policy Must Focus on Securing Our Supply Chain, Protecting Workers, and Combatting China

Chairman Smith (MO-08) outlined his goals for American trade policy – securing our supply chain against nations who do not share our interests and providing American workers, farmers, and small businesses a fair chance to compete in the global economy:

Chairman Smith: “One key step is to secure our supply chains. We must reduce our dependency on nations who do not share our values or have aligned interests. To be clear, a country that cannot supply their own demand for food, energy, and medicine, but must instead rely on other nations to fulfill those basic needs, they are no longer independent, but they are politically dependent. That means producing more of our own medicine and energy, and where we can’t make it here, ensuring that we are sourcing from allies close to home…

“We need to aggressively enforce the commitments our trading partners made to treat U.S. products fairly. We must build on the progress from USMCA by pushing more trading partners to open their markets, so our farmers and small businesses can compete and win.

“American families need results. We must use trade enforcement tools to chart a new path forward to put American workers first and to hold accountable bad actors, including China.” 

New York Dairy Farmer: Canada Not Fulfilling Obligations Under USMCA by Blocking American Exports

The United States – Mexico – Canada Agreement (USMCA) opened new markets to American farmers and businesses. In some cases, both Mexico and Canada are not fulfilling their obligations under USMCA, hurting American workers and farmers. In response to Chairman Smith (MO-08), Dale Hemminger, a second-generation New York farmer, shared that he and farmers like him pay the price for not enforcing our trade agreements:

Mr. Hemminger: We can’t ship our milk to Canada. I expanded my dairy 30 years ago thinking that market would open up. Yet at Hunts Point, right here in New York City in the Bronx, there’s New York cabbage out of storage… You look at this again in July through November, every single product here will have a Canadian entry on it. At the same time my milk can’t go to Canada. It’s just common sense.

Witness: Chinese Critical Mineral Mining Exploits African Nations and Destroys Environment

China’s exploitation of African nations for raw materials is a factor in its dominance of global critical mineral supply chains. Rep. Adrian Smith (NE-03) asked one witness, a Co-CEO of a company that mines rare earth minerals and is investing to process them in the United States, to contrast how Chinese companies approach mining versus the strict regulations American miners follow to protect the local environment.

Rep. Smith: “Mr. Romano, you’ve spoken about the importance of raw materials in Africa and Australia. Can you tell us about what you’ve seen regarding Chinese attempts to aggressively secure the raw material resources globally so that they can control and exploit those?

Mr. Romano:You get a lot of ‘junior’ miners in Australia that historically not only mine, but they’ve upgraded that raw material. What you’re seeing now is a lot of these junior miners are getting interest from the Chinese. They buy into these companies, get board seats, and in many instances, they’re getting 100 percent offtake rights to the material….They’re running out of titanium in China. In Mozambique, they go in there, they buy the mining rights, they are taking the raw material and a form of what’s called heavy mineral concentrate… and then they ship everything back to China to be upgraded and processed. For us as a miner, we have very strict rules on how we actually have to take the mining work that we do and then put the property that we mined back to the way it came…That’s a significant disadvantage because they are going and exploiting other countries to get raw materials to send back to China.

Biden’s Weak Economy Hurts America’s Ports

Thriving ports are directly tied to the health of the economy. Under President Biden, volume at the Staten Island port is down 42 percent since last year. Families, racked by inflation and high interest rates, are not ordering commodities like furniture, which are the lifeblood of America’s ports. As the host for the Committee’s Staten Island hearing, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (NY-11) highlighted how this weak economy hurts her constituents.

Rep. Malliotakis: While many industries were eventually able to return to former habits post-pandemic, the seaports continued to grapple with altered consumer patterns and a shifting global supply crisis. How do seaports continue to adapt to these supply chain patterns that have emerged post pandemic?

Mr. Atkins: As everyone noticed on the way down to the site here, we’re pretty wide open at our facility here. Our volume year over year is down about 42 percent at this facility…. Right now, the interest rates on mortgages, and that you see on any kind of consumer credit, is impacting one of the biggest purchasing areas, and that’s home goods. Furniture by commodity is the number one mover into the country. If you look at the furniture and home goods sector, that is down dramatically.

Concern About Chinese Companies Potentially Avoiding Forced Labor Scrutiny

Stakeholders have raised concerns that direct-to-consumer companies founded in China, like Shein and TEMU, may at times dodge proper scrutiny under American law banning importation of products made with forced labor by sending small shipments to the United States. Rep. Earl Blumenaur (OR-03) pointed out concerns with the potential implications of shipments avoiding additional layers of scrutiny and inspection.

Rep. Blumenauer: “Mr. Turkel, you talk about how this is used to allow goods that use forced labor to come to the country…for over two million packages a day, uninspected, untariffed, to flow into the United States…can you talk about what you might have added if you had time?”

Mr. Turkel: One quarter of those [packages] inspected at JFK Airport had some type of violations. . . . One company that has been in question is Shein. It is one of the most successful Chinese companies…The download of this app has surpassed already Tik Tok, Instagram, Twitter. That shows that this is one of the most effective tools that Chinese entities use by taking advantage of the de minimis rule.”