Larsen Supports Trade Enforcement Bill: Other Countries Must Play By The Rules

Dec 11, 2015 Issues: Jobs Labor and the Economy

Larsen-led provisions to help small businesses export also included in bill

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. trade agreements will hold other countries to a higher standard of accountability because of provisions Rep. Rick Larsen, WA-02, pushed for in a trade enforcement bill (Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015) that the U.S. House passed today. Larsen championed a new trust fund to pay for enforcement actions against other countries that break trade rules. He also supported a provision to require quick action against countries engaging in unfair trading practices, as well as an office dedicated to ensuring other countries play by the rules or face consequences.

Larsen voted in favor of the House version of the bill earlier this year and pointed out the even stronger measures to enforce trade agreements and help small businesses in the bill he supported today.

Strong Enforcement

“If other countries want to trade with us, they must play by the rules or face the consequences. The bill I voted for today creates for the first time a trust fund dedicated to enforcing trade deals. This fund is not just words on paper. It is real money, up to $30 million, to make sure our trading partners play fairly.

“The bill also makes permanent an office dedicated specifically to enforcing trade agreements. The office has a strong track record since its inception in 2012, helping bring cases to the World Trade Organization (WTO) against countries like Argentina, China and India for unfair trade practices. Since 2009, the U.S. has brought 20 complaints to the WTO, more than any WTO member, and has won every case that has been decided so far.

“With the new trust fund and more trade cops on the beat, the U.S. will be better equipped to track down and put a stop to countries that are creating an unfair playing field for our workers,” Larsen said.

The bill:

  • Establishes a trust fund to pay for the enforcement of trade agreements and requires the U.S. Treasury to transfer $15 million each year to the fund, which may have a balance of up to $30 million;
  • Permanently establishes the Interagency Center on Trade Implementation, Monitoring and Enforcement in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to increase investigations and enforcement actions; and
  • Establishes new requirements for U.S. Customs and Border Patrol to initiate investigations within 15 days of receiving a petition about allegations of unfairly traded goods and make a final determination within 210 days.

Helping Small Businesses

Larsen’s provisions to help small businesses export are also included in the bill: funding for the State Trade and Export Promotion, or STEP, program, and requirements for more coordinated, efficient assistance from the federal government to streamline trade resources for small businesses.

“When we help our small businesses sell their goods overseas, we create jobs here at home. I fought hard for funding to do just that, and I am pleased this bill includes $30 million for the job-creating STEP program that has helped hundreds of small businesses in Washington state generate millions of dollars in sales. The new state trade coordination effort will enable small businesses to focus on growing their sales abroad, rather than navigating complicated federal bureaucracies,” Larsen said.

The bill:

  • Authorizes the STEP program to receive $30 million annually for FY2016 – FY2020. The program received $17.4 million in FY2015. Larsen has long championed the STEP program.
  • Streamlines the federal agencies that play a role in trade promotion to provide more efficient, effective assistance to small businesses seeking to start exporting or grow their exports.

Supporting Nepal

Larsen also applauded a measure to aid Nepal in growing its economy through imports to the U.S., following an earthquake earlier this year that devastated the country. The Pacific Northwest is home to a vibrant Nepalese-American community.

“Recovery from a massive natural disaster takes years, and the U.S. has a role to play in continuing to aid a country that lost thousands of people in April. I know many Nepalese in Washington state were affected by that quake, and I am pleased the bill will support this community,” Larsen said.

Concerns

While Larsen agreed with many provisions in the bill, he said there is more work to do to stop human trafficking, prevent currency manipulation and slow climate change.

“No bill I have ever supported is perfect, and this one is no different. I have several concerns about this bill.

“If other countries want access to the U.S. marketplace, they should not be engaged in deplorable practices like human trafficking. Our country needs to redouble its efforts to stop human trafficking. While I would like to have seen stronger safeguards in this bill for people in these dangerous situations, I see new enforcement tools and resources as a critical way to hold other countries accountable.

“Unfair actions like currency manipulation stack the deck against our workers. I understand this bill does not go as far to stop currency manipulation as many would like, and I agree. The tools in this bill are only a small step toward curbing this unfair practice.

“The Administration is fighting hard for a climate change agreement right now at the climate conference in Paris. I see a deal like the one negotiators are working on in Paris as a much more effective way to address climate change than a trade agreement,” Larsen said.

###