Cantwell to Trade Nominee: “I’m Done with the Trump Administration Approach to Trade” – Emphasizes Washington Trade Priorities at USTR Nomination Hearing

Cantwell highlights devastating impacts of Trump trade war - nearly 300,000 American jobs lost

WASHINGTON, D.C. – At a Senate Finance Committee hearing this morning to consider the nomination of Katherine Tai to be United States Trade Representative, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) slammed the Trump administration’s tariff-first approach to trade and questioned Tai on what actions the Biden administration will take to open up markets and increase exports for Washington state products.

“I’m done with the Trump administration’s approach to trade,” Cantwell said at the hearing. “Moody’s Analytics estimated that the trade war with China cost us nearly 300,000 American jobs. U.S. companies lost 1.7 trillion in the price of their stocks as a result. JP Morgan estimates the trade war cost American households between $600 and $1,000 per year. I’m hoping that you in the Biden administration are going to embrace a new a new trade regime… We have to be for opening up new markets.”

Emphasizing that “I come from a trading state and I believe that we live in a global economy,” Cantwell asked Tai about a number of Washington trade priorities including opening the Indian market for apples, increasing wheat exports, and resolving the dispute with the European Union on commercial aircraft subsidies for Airbus.

The market for Washington apples has fallen to $4.9 million from $120 million after India imposed retaliatory tariffs following the Trump administration’s unilateral steel tariffs in 2018. India will now be requiring certification that export shipments are free of genetically engineered crops. Apples are included under this requirement, and no genetically engineered apples are exported from the United States. Furthermore, there are no genetically engineered red delicious – the variety that accounts for most of all the apple exports to India. India may close its market to U.S. apples in March 2021 if no agreement is reached with the United States.

Cantwell asked Tai what she would do to ensure that India keeps its market open to U.S. apples and reduces its tariffs. She also asked when the Biden administration would consider restoring India’s GSP status and whether access for apples and other U.S. exports would be a factor. Tai answered: “On your question on GSP in India, let me just say that if confirmed, this is very high on my radar” and committed to engaging robustly with Senator Cantwell on the issue. President Trump terminated GSP for India in 2019. The GSP allows duty-free entry to the U.S. for thousands of products from developing countries if they meet certain eligibility criteria; India was the largest beneficiary of the program in 2017.

Emphasizing that China must meet its commitments to the World Trade Organization regarding wheat imports, Cantwell also asked Tai what actions the Biden administration can take to increase wheat exports to Asia: “There are other markets in Southeast Asia like Vietnam and Indonesia that also offer great potential. So, what will the Biden administration do to help us increase wheat exports in Asia overall?”

Cantwell also questioned Tai about the Boeing-Airbus dispute, asking “Will you prioritize reaching an agreement on commercial aircraft subsidies to end European subsidies and tariffs?”

“I think that between the U.S. and the EU, if confirmed, I would very much be interested in figuring out if, pardon the pun, how to land this particular plane because it has been going on for a very long time,” Tai responded.

Katherine Tai currently serves as chief trade counsel for the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means.

Video of Senator Cantwell’s Q&A with Tai is available HERE, audio is HERE, and a transcript is HERE.