Washington, DC – Ways and Means Ranking Member Dave Camp (R-MI) today delivered the keynote address at the National Foreign Trade Council Annual Dinner and discussed the need for greater action on the U.S. trade agenda – by Congress, the Administration and the business community – in order to spur economic growth and create U.S. jobs.
In the speech, Ranking Member Camp noted that “Instead of capitalizing on trade opportunities to turn our sluggish economy around and create vital American jobs, too many are capitalizing on a weak economy to spread fear about trade agreements and international commerce in hopes of turning around their political careers.” In light of current environment, Camp urged members of the business community to talk with their workers and the communities in which they do business about the benefits of trade.
“The business community cannot afford to sit by and watch trade issues get demagogued on the campaign trail,” Camp stated. “The essential fact is that if you lose the political fight in the 50 states, you will never win the policy fights in Washington.” Camp went on to note, “I am confident that, if we work together – employers and workers, Republicans and Democrats, Administration and Congress – we can demonstrate to the American people the value of trade, we can generate the support needed to increase exports and open new markets for our goods and services, and we can create a brighter economic future for generations to come.”
Specifically, Camp outlined some of the top priorities of his trade agenda, which include:
- Completing the South Korea trade agreement before the end of the year;
- Finishing the “languishing” Colombia and Panama agreements within six months;
- Employing a robust and multipronged strategy to deal with China’s trade abuses, including pursuit of WTO violations when they occur and the resuscitation of the bilateral investment treaty negotiations; and
- Actively engaging new trading partners to prevent the EU and others from getting a leg up on American made goods and services.
The full speech can be read below:
As all of you know, promoting a free trade agenda and a tax code that promotes international expansion rather than isolationism is not always easy. It wasn’t when I first came to office, and, as one of only three remaining Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee who voted for NAFTA, I can assure you it hasn’t gotten any easier.
Not since the 1930s has so much uncertainty gripped investors, employers and families. The unemployment rate here in the U.S. has been stuck above 9 percent for 16 consecutive months. This uncertainty reflects historic and dangerous levels of U.S. debt, nearly $700 billion in new taxes so far in this Congress, a $3.8 trillion tax hike still looming on the horizon, and the hazards of paralysis in U.S. trade policy.
Add to that the upcoming election – an election as hotly contested and intense as I have ever seen – and it is clear that America is at a crossroads – trying to determine its future and regain control of our economic fate. The success of that effort has as much to do with the success of your companies and our ability to create an environment for growth and global commerce as it does with anything else.
And, with apologies to President Reagan, who rightly quipped that “[t]he nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help,’” let me nonetheless assure you that I am here to help.
I am here to make sure that the economic opportunity and prosperity that stems from the free flow of goods and services between countries is not destroyed by political fear and insecurity;
That global competitiveness and the job-creating power of U.S. worldwide corporations do not become a casualty of the cheap and easy demagoguery of international tax policy;
That workers who are dislocated by trade have recourse to training and benefits to get them back on their feet;
And, I am here to assure the President that, regardless of the election outcome, I am committed to helping him meet the goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2014.
As I noted, none of this will come easy – especially when well-funded interest groups in states like Pennsylvania and Ohio attack candidates for supporting trade agreements that are alleged to send jobs overseas. Sadly, that scene is being played out all across the country. Instead of capitalizing on trade opportunities to turn our sluggish economy around and create vital American jobs, too many are capitalizing on a weak economy to spread fear about trade agreements and international commerce in hopes of turning around their political careers. If you’ve not yet done so, I urge you to look at what is happening in Ohio to Rob Portman, the former United States Trade Representative, now running for the U.S. Senate. Frankly, it is appalling.
Rob’s battle is my battle. It is the battle of every free-trader. But, more importantly, it is your battle – it matters most to your company, your shareholders and your workers. Let me be clear that the business community cannot afford to sit by and watch trade issues get demagogued on the campaign trail. You cannot “rise above the fray.” You cannot sit quietly and ignore it in the mistaken belief that “it is just election year politics and nothing more.” The essential fact is that if you lose the political fight in the 50 states, you will never win the policy fights in Washington. And those fights are getting harder, not easier.
As business leaders, you see the fact that other countries are surging past us as evidence that we need to unshackle ourselves from an outdated tax code and to open ourselves to more trade. But an increasingly dominant narrative in politics today tells elected officials to go after companies that “get tax benefits for shipping jobs offshore” and to “reject trade agreements that hurt our workers.”
Frankly, today’s vote on Chinese currency manipulation in the House is a perfect example. While the Chinese government is literally stealing the intellectual property of U.S. companies, the Congress remains virtually silent on the matter. The Chinese impose barrier after barrier to our goods and services – including a particularly egregious indigenous innovation policy – and the House tinkers with legislation addressing the undervaluation of the RMB.
While I supported the measure once Chairman Levin discarded the original bill and made significant changes so it is no longer an “on-its-face” blatant violation of our WTO obligations, we should not kid ourselves about its impact. Clearly, there are far larger issues with regard to China, our trade imbalance, the larger trade agenda (or lack thereof) and our international competitiveness that Congress should be addressing.
However, Congress can wait only so long before it acts. The failure of the Administration to successfully engage our trading partners in a multilateral approach to deal with China’s currency has caused great frustration among workers, employers and Members of Congress alike. The lack of results by this Administration led to the original legislation, which is now greatly improved.
And to those who continue to oppose this bill, I say this: this bill is not on my trade agenda.
My focus, with regard to China, is to more aggressively pursue WTO violations when they occur and also to resuscitate the bilateral investment treaty negotiations begun with China several years ago. Such an agreement would give Americans considerably more rights in China and a dispute resolution mechanism with real teeth to protect U.S. jobs. China has 70 bilateral investment treaties in place – so 70 countries have greater rights in China than we do. That is simply unacceptable.
It is equally important that we no longer sit on the sidelines while the rest of the world is actively engaging in new trade agreements. The EU is presently negotiating with a large number of countries, including China and India – all while American employers and workers are falling further behind.
Trade agreements are a sure-fire way to boost economic growth by creating new markets for U.S. goods and services without raising taxes or further increasing already bloated federal budgets. Yet, the Ways and Means Committee has not held a single hearing – at the full committee level or the subcommittee level – on even one of the pending trade agreements in the well over three-year period since they were signed: not South Korea, not Colombia and not Panama. This inaction is inexcusable, especially in light of nearly 10 percent unemployment.
In June, the President declared he wanted to finish the South Korea agreement before the end of the year – in less than six months. I welcomed that announcement, but it is time for the President to put the same emphasis on the languishing agreements with Colombia and Panama – complete them both within six months for the sake of our workers, our goods and our services.
And, we have to realize that we cannot tax and spend our way to prosperity. Your global operations have value both here at home and abroad, and they should not be used as an ATM to fund greater domestic spending. Taxing away profits serves neither our short-term nor our long-term economic interests. We saw that game played in August, when international tax offsets were used for an unrelated domestic spending bill. And we saw it again today, when the so-called Doggett Treaty Raiser, which even the Administration’s own Treasury Department officials warned could provoke retaliation from our trading partners, was used in the House to pay for a different bill.
You already bear the burden of a U.S. corporate tax rate that is second only to Japan and soon to be the highest amongst developed nations. The imposition of ever higher and higher taxes is contributing to our inability to create robust growth.
To its credit, even the President’s own hand-picked advisors, the Economic Recovery Advisory Board, noted the dangers of an international tax system that is badly out of date. At a time when capital is mobile and opportunities for expanding markets are largely in places outside the 50 states, fundamental tax reform must be at the top of the agenda.
Clearly, we are at a crossroads, and the work ahead of us on trade and tax policies will not be easy. The rewards, however, for your companies and the workers you employ are more than worth it. And, while I meant it when I said I was here to help, I also mean it when I say I need your help.
Collectively, we must do a better job of accurately informing the American people about the benefits of global operations and the free flow of goods and services between the U.S. and countries around the world. I need you talking to your peers, to your workers and in the communities where you have operations about the direct local benefit of engaging and succeeding in the global marketplace, as well as the importance of trade in creating good jobs here at home.
I am confident that, if we work together – employers and workers, Republicans and Democrats, Administration and Congress – we can demonstrate to the American people the value of trade, we can generate the support needed to increase exports and open new markets for our goods and services, and we can create a brighter economic future for generations to come.