Round 2: China Bashing Bill Heads to US Senate

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 12/15/2010 01:35:00 PM
A few months ago, I commented on a China-bashing bill, H.R. 2378 ("The Currency for Fair Trade Reform Act"), finally getting through the US House of Representatives. That done, its equivalent is now coursing its way through the Senate. Something that strikes me is the timing: instead of waiting for the newly-elected senators to take their place next year, the China-bashing bills proponents think it at least has a chance during the current lame-duck session. Why? I can think of two reasons: First, gains the Republicans made during the November elections may appear negative to the bill's proponents insofar as Republicans are, on the balance, less protectionist by perception. Second, anti-China sentiment may be so great at present that it's the right time to strike.

In any event, what's transpiring is that the bill's co-sponsors in the Senate are trying to tie this China-bashing legislation to the pending and rather odious spending bill Obama has penned as a compromise between--what--American hyperspending and mere superspending:
Two US senators on Monday sought to introduce legislation targeting China over alleged currency manipulation by tying it to a bill championed by President Barack Obama to avert a massive New Year's tax increase. Republican Olympia Snowe and Democrat Sherrod Brown said they had introduced the "Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act" as an amendment to the tax measure.

The act would direct the Commerce Department to treat deliberate currency undervaluation as a forbidden export subsidy, paving the way for countervailing duties on exports from the offending country. Though the effort was not expected to succeed, it reflected persistent congressional anger about China's huge trade surplus with the United States.
Well heck, if they think it's worth a try. What follows is the text of the letter urging a Senate vote -

Dear Leader (Harry) Reid and Leader (Mitch) McConnell:

We are writing to ask that a Senate vote be scheduled on the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act (H.R.2378), which addresses an abusive practice that is thwarting free market competition in the global trade arena. Currency manipulation is undermining the ability of American companies to compete in the global marketplace and hire American workers. It is in the national interest to address this issue before the Senate adjourns.

The problems facing workers and manufacturers due to currency manipulation are growing more severe with each passing day. China is by far the leading violator of international trade rules and its actions continue to harm America’s workers, farmers, industry, and manufacturing. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has said that China’s currency undervaluation provides “an effective subsidy for Chinese exporters.” Leading economists estimate that the renminbi is undervalued by as much as 40 percent. Our nation’s trade deficit with China reached $227 billion last year, which represents a 170 percent increase since 2000. According to the Economic Policy Institute, currency manipulation – along with other factors – has caused the United States to lose more than 2.4 million jobs to China over the past decade.

The United States has been pressing China to allow the renminbi to appreciate for more than seven years. In 2004, the Treasury Department expressed concern when China’s foreign exchange reserves rose to $346 billion. Today, those reserves exceed $2.4 trillion. Repeated efforts by the administration to address Chinese government currency manipulation through diplomacy have yielded no meaningful results. The American people are demanding legislation to stop our trading partners from rigging the game to undercut true market competition. It is time for the Senate to meet that demand and take action by voting on the House-passed bill.

Under existing laws, tariffs can be imposed on imports benefitting from government subsidies, if the subsidized exports from foreign countries threaten the well-being of American companies and workers. In the past, the Department of Commerce has refused to designate currency manipulation as illegal because its benefits are not deemed to be “limited exclusively to circumstances of export.”

The Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act is a measured approach that would direct the Department of Commerce to treat currency undervaluation as a prohibited export subsidy. This designation would ensure the government is equipped to respond on behalf of American workers and manufacturers by imposing countervailing duties on subsidized exports from China.

The challenges facing our nation’s working families, including those who depend on trade-sensitive manufacturing jobs in Ohio and Maine, increase with each passing week. The House of Representatives passed the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act in September with overwhelming, bipartisan support. It is time to take action to help rebuild the economic foundation of the middle class. It is time to move this legislation forward in the Senate for a vote.

Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.


Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)
Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine)