Is Congress preparing a big trade giveaway for China?

As politically divided as the United States has become in recent years, Americans agree on one thing: China. They are troubled by the US’ heavy reliance on supply chains in China. They are appalled by China’s use of slave labor in its factories. And they see China openly supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – and accusing the United States of aggressor.

Americans do not want to depend on a hostile nation for their daily needs. And so, it should be obvious for Congress to act. However, as the House and Senate confer on a new Chinese bill, the solution may be found. That’s because some Senate Republicans are pushing for legislation that would actually increase America’s dependence on imports from China.

Michael Stum

Over the past 20 years, America has lost 3.7 million jobs to China. Meanwhile, Beijing has gradually extended its dominance of high-tech industries while stepping up military operations in the South China Sea. Beijing has also formalized a “no limits” alliance with Russia that includes China buying Russian oil and promoting Moscow’s disinformation about the war in Ukraine.

Americans are rightly worried about it – and want to end the country’s dependence on factories in China. A new poll by Morning Consult finds that 73% of voters favor trade remedies, such as tariffs on China, to protect American industries and workers. And 71% want the federal government to continue imposing tariffs on Chinese exports.

In February, the House passed the America COMPETES Act, a law intended to strengthen the competitiveness of the United States vis-à-vis China. The bill includes language to close a loophole currently allowing duty-free entry for Chinese goods shipped to the United States worth less than $800.

Unfortunately, the House legislation now has to compete with a deeply flawed Chinese bill — USICA — that passed the Senate last summer. Unlike the COMPETES Act, the Senate bill would actually weaken the tariffs imposed on China for stealing American technology. It would also offer tariff relief to Chinese exporters who claim “loss of profitability”. In fact, USICA is reportedly demanding that the US Treasury send billions of dollars to Chinese exporters as part of a “tariff refund.”

The House and Senate are currently trying to merge the two bills into final legislation. And this is where the American people should pay close attention as some high-ranking Republicans are pushing for the Senate bill at the behest of multinational corporations.

Pennsylvania voters should take particular note of this since their own Senator Pat Toomey is a member of the conference committee that negotiates House and Senate bills. Voters should urge Sen. Toomey to stand up for U.S. manufacturers — and make sure tariffs on China aren’t weakened just to boost profits for big retailers and importers.

Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of tariffs on China. And so, Congress should reject efforts to weaken US trade laws or allow bogus tariff exclusions. It’s time to bring American manufacturing back with a robust Chinese bill that defends American workers and manufacturers.

Michael Stumo is CEO of the Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA). Follow him on Twitter at @michael_stumo