House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) today delivered the following opening statement at a full Committee hearing on the President’s trade policy agenda with USTR Lighthizer.
“Today, our Committee is honored to welcome back U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to testify on President Trump’s trade policy agenda.
“Ambassador, thank you for joining us.
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“Our country was born because of trade. We have led the world in commerce and trade for the last century. Trade is part of everything we do as Americans.
“The freedom to trade is our greatest economic freedom – the freedom to buy, sell, and compete anywhere in the world with as little government interference as possible.
“Through trade, America has built roads and bridges, towns and cities, and we have brought peace, freedom, and hope to our people and the nations of the world.
“At this moment, we stand at a crossroads.
“If we stand still – or worse, take the path of isolationism – we will abandon our greatest freedom and the very DNA of what makes us Americans.
“There is a better path. We are already seeing benefits from the historic tax cuts that the President just signed into law, which is increasing our competitiveness and making us the best place to do business in the world. Our trade policy must build on that growth.
“In a competitive world, it’s not enough to buy American – we have to sell American to the billions of customers outside the U.S. That’s how we help our local businesses and farmers, create American jobs, and spur our economic growth.
“Mr. Ambassador, America must continue to lead.
“We lead – and Americans win – when we open up markets for our products and services through high-standard, ambitious, and enforceable trade agreements. This must be our top priority.
“If we don’t break open new markets through trade deals with countries like Japan, the United Kingdom, and the TPP-11 – we’ll be left behind. China and Europe will write the rules and cut American producers and workers out of other markets. We can’t wait any longer while others pass us by.
“I strongly support the President’s request for TPA renewal, which he submitted to Congress yesterday, and I’m glad to see in his report that he intends to use TPA to negotiate new agreements consistent with Congressional objectives. TPA establishes a vital partnership between the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch, in which Congress sets out the detailed objectives for negotiations as well as specific rules for consultation with Congress and the public.
“I’m pleased with our progress to modernize NAFTA – the largest and most successful trading relationship in the world. USTR has worked tirelessly to achieve bold and ambitious standards.
“I am hopeful we’ll be able to vote on – and pass – a new NAFTA by year end.
“That said, the road ahead isn’t easy. Congress wants robust protections for intellectual property, increased market access for our dairy farmers, and an end to Canada and Mexico’s harshly restrictive Customs barriers such as unreasonably low de minimis levels. We need workable solutions on rules of origin and procurement that recognize how Americans benefit from global supply chains – otherwise we lose to China.
“I also caution that any agreement without binding dispute settlement, including Investor-State Dispute Settlement, won’t find sufficient support in Congress. Congress explicitly set out this requirement in TPA knowing it’s the only way to hold trading partners accountable.
“America must also lead on China. China’s chronic oversupply of steel and aluminum has put many Americans out of work and companies out of business. Its blatant theft of our companies’ technology and intellectual property can’t be tolerated. I believe strong enforcement is needed.
“But we cannot do this alone. If we hurt our allies, America will lose. Let’s target remedies to address true national security risks, eliminate unfair trade, and take into account our entire economy. The wrong remedy puts significant American jobs at risk. We must not punish American families and workers for China’s misbehavior. Indiscriminate tariffs are not the right approach. And before the Administration put any tariffs in place, it should provide a robust opportunity for public comment so that the effect of these tariffs on our economy can be properly assessed.
“It’s not about backing down – it’s about hitting the target, which is China and its bad practices, not our allies and other U.S. sectors.
“Finally, I want to be clear that the Constitution vests Congress with the authority over the U.S. trade policy agenda. The relationship between Congress and the Executive branch is a true partnership in implementing that agenda.
“We want to partner with you to ensure that America continues to choose the freedom to trade. America must continue to lead the world in defining what it means to have an open and free economy. American jobs and values depend on it.
“Again, thank you for being here today. We look forward to your testimony.”