WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) today delivered the following opening statement at a full Committee hearing on the President’s Trade Policy Agenda with United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
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Remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Good morning. Today our Committee is honored to welcome United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to testify on President Trump’s trade policy agenda. Ambassador Lighthizer, thank you for joining us. We look forward to your testimony.
“Mr. Ambassador, as a former Deputy USTR under President Reagan and an experienced trade negotiator, you understand that U.S. leadership and participation in a rules-based trading system is essential to our nation’s prosperity.
“America has led the world in global commerce for the better part of the last 100 years. Through our network of strong, enforceable trade agreements, we have expanded economic freedom so that our businesses, workers, and consumers can thrive.
“Through strict enforcement of the rules we created – and our leadership in the World Trade Organization – we’ve held our competitors accountable.
“And through our steadfast commitment to the principles of free enterprise, open markets, and rules-based international commerce, our nation has set itself apart.
“The world looks to us – not China – to lead in setting the standards of global commerce. When we set an example, the world follows.
“Today, American leadership on trade is more important than ever – especially in the Asia-Pacific region, where China’s influence is growing every day.
“It is urgent that we take charge on trade in the Asia-Pacific so that we do not lose ground to China. After all, to preserve and strengthen America’s leadership in global commerce, it’s not enough to just buy American products and services. We also have to sell American. And we need strong trade agreements that allow us to do so in Asia and in fast-growing markets throughout the world.
“Our trade agreements, including NAFTA, have been tremendously successful. They have created American jobs, lowered prices for consumers, and helped our businesses compete and win in all three crucial sectors of our economy – agriculture, services, and, yes, manufacturing.
“That said, we must take action to strengthen our existing agreements to ensure that they continue to benefit the American people. I’m pleased that President Trump is taking this approach with NAFTA.
“NAFTA was negotiated nearly 25 years ago. It should be updated to reflect the modern realities of trade on digital commerce, intellectual property, state-owned enterprises, and customs barriers, among others – following the negotiating objectives Congress set forth in TPA.
“And, as you’ve committed to us during earlier consultations, Mr. Ambassador, this modernization must be accomplished in a manner that retains current benefits in a seamless way that does not disrupt the current agreement, ongoing trade, or the millions of American jobs at stake.
“With the Administration’s commitment to our strong, balanced negotiating objectives and deliberate timetable established by TPA, I’m confident we can work together to deliver a high-quality deal for the American people – one that can serve as a model as you move forward with other bilateral agreements.
“Given that the Administration does not support a multilateral approach, we must quickly move together on an ambitious network of deals that break down barriers and allow us to sell American all over the world.
“I’m particularly interested in TTIP, once the EU can conclude an ambitious and comprehensive deal. Also, I’m interested in trade deals with Japan, and the UK – when it can come to the table – as well as the Trade in Services Agreement, and the Environmental Goods Agreement. And we plan to renew GSP and move quickly on our Miscellaneous Tariff Bill to help U.S. exporters.
“I’m encouraged to see the President’s dedication to strict enforcement of trade rules. The President has already taken important steps by putting into action many new enforcement tools passed by Congress last year.
“If countries fail to uphold their trade obligations, these powerful tools – and our participation in the WTO – allow us to challenge them and, if necessary, push back strongly on behalf of our businesses and workers.
“And when it comes to America’s trade deficit, we welcome the President’s efforts to examine the issue.
“There are many factors behind our trade deficit – some may be related to trade, but most are not. For example, the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency is a significant factor.
“Examining the trade balance as black-or-white conceals what is really going on. Many exports from, say, Mexico, reflect tremendous U.S. value-added through research, development, design, intellectual property, services support, and manufacturing.
“To the extent the trade deficit is caused by unfair trading practices, we must rip down those barriers. And, through our powerful enforcement tools, we can. Another solution is to push for strong trade agreements that open up new markets worldwide for American products and services.
“Through trade agreements that are strictly enforced, we have reduced and even eliminated trade deficits in manufacturing, agriculture, and services. In many cases, we’ve even turned deficits into surpluses.
“While a first instinct may be to restrict imports, history shows that the most successful approach is not protectionism – it’s breaking open new markets to American-made goods and services.
“We have some of the best businesses, workers, and products in the world. If we can reach these customers on a level playing field, America will come out on top.
“That’s the recommendation I offer as the Administration considers whether to restrict steel and aluminum imports. I agree that we must address market distortions created by China. Section 232 authority must be used with careful consideration of consequences to our economy and trade rules that we wrote and fully expect our trading partners to abide by.
“Done improperly, we cut off supply that our companies need to stay competitive.
“Done hastily, we raise costs and prove to our partners that we aren’t reliable.
“Done indiscriminately, we harm countries that trade fairly and send a protectionist signal to those looking for an excuse to do the same. It will encourage others to restrict our exports, even in unrelated sectors, which only hurts the growth of jobs and paychecks here at home. I want to work with the Administration to identify a remedy that is balanced, effective, and protects our national security and economic interests.
“America must continue to set the standards of global commerce. With 96 percent of the world’s customers located outside the United States, we cannot afford to sit on the sidelines, or worse, lead the world into abandoning the rules that have served us so well.
“Ambassador Lighthizer, we’re eager to work with you and President Trump on a pro-growth trade agenda that creates jobs, grows paychecks, and improves the lives of all Americans.
“Thanks again for being here. We look forward to your testimony.”