Cantwell Hits Administration for Fumbling on China & Trade, Failing to Increase Exports, Hurting Consumers

Cantwell: “I want a more sophisticated approach” to solving trade disputes with China

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a Senate Finance Committee hearing on President Trump’s trade agenda today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell called out the Administration for failing to adequately prioritize American exports, while taking actions that are directly anti-consumer.

“The lunacy of an Administration that cannot make a layup on the Export-Import Bank and increase exports, and yet wants to shoot consumers in the foot with a tariff…is something I disagree with,” said Cantwell during the hearing. “I want a more sophisticated approach. I get that a kind of stomp-your-feet approach make some people feel good but in the integrated economy that we already have, it’s more complex. I think that the [Strategic and Economic Dialogue] needs to be updated, that it takes constant dialogue.”

Cantwell’s comments come as the Trump Administration announced new tariffs on Chinese products, following the administration’s investigation into the Government of China’s actions regarding technology transfer, intellectual property, and innovation under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. As a result of the investigation, the President announced the U.S. would impose new tariffs on about $60 billion in imports of Chinese consumer goods, as well as imposing investment restrictions and pursuing action at the World Trade Organization (WTO). However, it is unlikely that these sanctions will stop the unfair Chinese trade practices. It is not clear that the Trump Administration has a clear comprehensive U.S.–China strategy.

The U.S.–China Comprehensive Dialogue, previously known as the Strategic and Economic Dialogue remains frozen. Senator Cantwell believes that the United States must resume its regular economic dialogue with China and work with its allies and partners to more effectively address unfair trade practices.

China was a $600 billion dollar market for U.S. goods and services in 2017 and remains one of the United States most important bilateral economic relationships. It was the number one export market for Washington state last year.

At the hearing, Cantwell also pressed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on the administration’s failing to prioritize getting the Export-Import Bank fully functioning. While Ambassador Lighthizer agreed that it is important for the Ex-Im Bank to have a functioning quorum, the administration has yet to send new nominees to the Senate.

“All I want is to have quorum on the bank and for it to start working, that’s as far as my interest goes, for it to become functional and I think that’s what you want too,” said Ambassador Lighthizer.

Cantwell said she would take him up on his offer, adding that “we work every day to make sure that great U.S. products can reach customers in international markets.”

Senator Cantwell has long fought for a fully functioning and permanently reauthorized Export-Import Bank to ensure American companies can compete on a level playing field with global competitors. As one of the most trade dependent state in the nation, the Ex-Im Bank is vital to Washington state’s economy. She pressed for board members to be nominated and confirmed to the bank’s board last year. In December of 2015, the Ex-Im Bank received a 4-year reauthorization thanks in part to Cantwell’s advocacy. Later that year, a coalition of Democrats secured an agreement from Majority Leader McConnell to hold a vote to reauthorize Ex-Im, which resulted in an overwhelming majority of support.