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Chairman Smith Opening Statement – Hearing with U.S. Trade Representative Tai

April 16, 2024

“The Administration has also unfortunately chosen a go-it-alone trade policy that consists of endless dialogues and unenforceable trade ‘frameworks’ that fail to open new markets to American products and circumvent Congressional constitutional authority over trade.”

As prepared for delivery.

“Ambassador Tai, thank you for joining us today to discuss the Biden Administration’s trade priorities. As always, it is a pleasure to welcome you back to the Ways and Means Committee.

“The last time you came before this Committee I was optimistic about the work we could accomplish together to deliver real results for American workers, farmers, and manufacturers. 

“Unfortunately, today, I am less optimistic, as the Administration continues to pursue a trade agenda that ignores Congress to the detriment of the American worker and American leadership on trade.

“The Ways and Means Committee has held field hearings across the United States where we’ve heard about how the Administration has failed to secure our critical supply chains, level the playing field for American farmers and workers, and reassert America’s global leadership role. 

“The United States is rapidly losing ground to China. We must act quickly to right the ship and put workers and American job-creators at the center of an effective trade agenda.

“This starts with strict enforcement of all our existing trade agreements, especially the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Unfortunately, the Biden Administration has failed for the last three years to hold our trading partners accountable. It took years of Congressional engagement to finally get this Administration to bring a case against Mexico’s GMO corn ban. 

“To make matters worse, when I speak to farmers in my home state of Missouri, they often refer to America as the world’s breadbasket. But lately, they feel more like the world’s cash cow. 

“You can understand my concern when the U.S. agricultural trade deficit reached a staggering $21 billion in 2023. This is even more alarming when you compare it to the years when President Trump was in office, where the average trade surplus for agriculture products was over $5.2 billion.

“U.S. agriculture producers benefit when the administration aggressively pursues a trade agenda that prioritizes their interests, and when USTR goes to bat for them around the world. USTR must be far more aggressive in protecting the interests of American farmers. 

“Meanwhile, this Administration has sat idly by while China continues to spread its malign global influence. 

“You have asked for new tools in that fight, but you haven’t even used the tools that you already have. You have failed to enforce the Phase One agreement, despite knowing that China is violating its end of the deal. This administration has pursued no new cases at the WTO. No new Section 301 investigations.

“To top it off, we are now nearly six-years into a four-year review of President Trump’s tariffs. Maybe it’s time for the Biden Administration to just admit that he did something right. 

“The Ways and Means Committee stands ready to hold China accountable for its human rights abuses and predatory trade practices that devastate American jobs and communities.

“Tomorrow, this Committee will advance legislation to make sure that countries like China can no longer use trade tools like de minimis to escape tariffs they rightfully owe. Additionally, we will counter China’s growing influence in the Democratic Republic of Congo and its use of forced labor to harvest critical minerals. We will also propose reforms to the GSP program specifically aimed at convincing countries to sever their own ties with China. 

“The Administration has also unfortunately chosen a go-it-alone trade policy that consists of endless dialogues and unenforceable trade ‘frameworks’ that fail to open new markets to American products and circumvent Congressional constitutional authority over trade. A proactive, robust trade agenda that will actually deliver results can only be achieved when USTR and Congress work together – as the U.S. Constitution demands.

“Your efforts to secure ‘critical mineral deals’ in places like Japan, the EU, UK, and Indonesia have incensed both Republicans and Democrats on this Committee as well as in the other Chamber. Again, we are left with no option but to advance legislation tomorrow to correct that.

“The United States should not sit idly by while our workers and companies are taken advantage of. And I am not just talking about China—the European Union and Canada seek to tax and regulate our companies out of existence. This is unacceptable. 

“Unfortunately, it is clear the Biden Administration’s focus has been misplaced. Rather than work to deliver for American workers, farmers, and small businesses, the Administration appeases progressive activists to make trade ‘woke’ and surrenders U.S. leadership on priorities like digital trade.

“Let me be clear, we would prefer to work closely together to achieve these goals. And it’s not too late to start. We remain willing to work with USTR to realign America’s trade priorities and look forward to hearing your answers to our questions today.”