- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 14, 2005

House Republicans and Democrats yesterday offered separate bills designed to slow the steady advance of Chinese products into the U.S. market.

Both measures would make it easier for U.S. companies to win protection if they can show that China is unfairly subsidizing its exports. The bills also would establish new studies and data that could be used as ammunition in later trade fights.

The two bills underscore widespread concern about rising competition from China and the central role the Asian nation is taking in a number of economic and political debates on Capitol Hill.

The U.S. trade deficit with China in May hit $15.8 billion and is on a pace to break last year’s record $162 billion deficit.

“This is, I think, exactly the sort of progress we need to be making on the biggest trade issue America is facing,” Rep. Phil English, Pennsylvania Republican, said yesterday as he introduced the Republican trade bill.

Rep. Bill Thomas, California Republican and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and Mr. English collaborated on the proposed legislation.

The Republican effort is meant, in part, to round up support for the Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement, a pact that was approved by the Senate but has not come up in the House because the outcome there is uncertain.

Mr. English twice voted against CAFTA-DR in the Ways and Means Committee but yesterday said he would now support it and expected the China legislation to swing as many as six other lawmakers to the deal.

CAFTA-DR would bind the United States, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua to a set of trade and investment rules.

Mr. Thomas and Mr. English’s bill included measures that would allow companies to petition for duties against subsidized Chinese products; monitor China’s compliance on intellectual property and market opening pledges; have the Treasury more closely examine whether China manipulates its currency; and step up trade law enforcement.

The remedy against subsidies is not currently available because China is not designated a market economy. But U.S. companies can seek protection through other means.

Mr. Thomas said the China bill would likely come up on the House floor before CAFTA-DR, which would set the vote this month.

“There’s no reason to vote ‘no’ on this piece of legislation,” Mr. Thomas said.

House Democrats took a swipe at the Bush administration with their bill, which included some measures similar to those in the Republican bill.

“The unrelenting, sky-high trade deficits with China reflect a failure by the Bush administration to adopt trade policies that promote the interests of U.S. workers, businesses and farmers,” said Rep. Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat.

The Democratic measure also would allow U.S. companies to petition for duties on subsidized Chinese products. The bill also would require a World Trade Organization case against China’s fixed currency and push more aggressive steps against fast-rising imports from China.

The Bush administration has resisted new measures against Chinese subsidies, but Mr. Thomas yesterday said he did not see the White House “balking” at the Republican bill.

Either measure would have to pass both the House and Senate.

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