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Robert P.
Republican OH

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  • Ensuring Tax Exempt Organizations the Right to Appeal Act—Motion to Proceed—Continued

    by Senator Rob Portman

    Posted on 2015-05-13

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    PORTMAN. Mr. President, I appreciate the opportunity to come to the floor to talk a little about the customs legislation that is now before us. As my colleague from Ohio just talked about, there are some very important provisions in this legislation that help to ensure that, yes, while we are expanding exports, we are also ensuring we have a more level playing field for our workers and our farmers.

    My State of Ohio is a State where we like exports. We have about 25 percent of our factory jobs there because of exports. But we want to be sure we are getting a fair shake. Working with Senator Brown and others, we put together some great provisions that are going to be part of this customs legislation. I am hopeful we can get this passed. It is part of the Customs bill as it passed in the Committee on Finance, but I am also hopeful it will be in whatever provision goes over to the House and also is signed by the President into law.

    Growing exports, of course, is a top priority--I hope it is a top priority for everybody here in the Chamber--and therefore trade-opening agreements are a good idea because we want to knock down barriers for our farmers and our workers, who are doing everything we have asked them to do to be more competitive and yet still face unfair trade overseas. So we want to knock down those barriers. Some are tariff barriers and some are nontariff barriers.

    Where we have a trade agreement, we tend to export a lot more. Only about 10 percent of the world has a trade agreement with the United States. We don't have trade agreements with Europe or Japan or with China. But in that 10 percent of the global economy, we send 47 percent of our exports. So, yes, trade agreements are important to open up markets for us.

    Ninety-five percent of consumers live outside our borders, so we want to sell to them. By the way, when we don't continue to sell to them and expand that, what happens is other countries come in and take our markets, and therefore our economy becomes weaker and we lose jobs here in this country. That is what is happening right now. For the last 7 years, we haven't been able to negotiate agreements because we have not had this promotion authority to be able to knock down barriers to trade. So that is important.

    But, colleagues, while we do that, we also have to be darn sure this level playing field occurs because otherwise we are not giving our workers and our farmers a fair shake. That is where we ought to be with a balanced approach--opening up more markets to our exports but also ensuring that trade is fair. There are a lot of ways to do that, and in this legislation before us we really help to keep our competitors' feet to the fire to make sure they are playing by the rules. One is with regard to trade enforcement cases. There is language in here that makes it easier for American companies to seek the relief they deserve when another country is selling products into the United States unfairly because they subsidize the product illegally or because they sell it at below their cost, which is called dumping.

    There are a lot of companies in Ohio that have had the opportunity to go to the International Trade Administration to seek remedy and some help, but often they find that it is so difficult to show they are injured, by the time they get help, it is too late. So what this legislation does is it says that when we have these trade cases, we want to have the ability to actually make our case and in a timely manner get some kind of relief. Otherwise, why do we have these laws? If you can't get timely relief, sometimes you find yourself so far underwater you can't get back on your feet. That is why I am really excited about passing this Customs bill, because if we do that, we will put in place a better way for companies to go to their government and to seek the relief their workers deserve and to get it in a timely manner so it can really help them.

    I was recently in northwest Ohio meeting with steelworkers to discuss one of these cases that has to do with Chinese tires coming into the United States. These particular workers were at Cooper Tire in Findlay, OH, which, by the way, just marked 100 years in business. We want them to be in business another 100 years, but they are having a tough time because they can't compete with tires being sold at below their cost. In response to the concerns they raised with me, I sent a letter to the Secretary of Commerce and called on the administration to vigorously investigate this case and to stand up for United Steelworkers in northwest Ohio.

    We now have a trade enforcement case we are working on involving the uncoated paper product made in Chillicothe, OH, at Glatfelter. Again, these are United Steelworker workers who are just asking for a fair shake. They want us to be sure that the paper being sent into the United States from other countries is being fairly traded and not illegally subsidized and not sold at below cost or dumped.

    So the tire case and the paper case are two examples where the material injury standard would really matter.

    This is an important time for us because in Ohio we have a lot of other cases too. In 2014, we had a couple of important trade victories. Last year, I worked with Senator Brown to support Ohio pipe and tube workers in Cleveland and the Mahoning Valley who are manufacturing parts to support the energy renaissance taking place in our State and around the country. I visited these pipe and tube manufacturers and met with the workers.

    By the way, these workers are doing a great job. Again, they have made concessions to be more competitive. The companies have put a big investment in their training and a big investment in technology, and they can compete if there is a level playing field, and they can win in the international competition.

    We won two trade enforcement cases just last year, among others against China, where they were illegally underselling and subsidizing their products. These victories brought some relief for Ohio pipe and tube makers and again gave us a chance to get back on our feet.

    We had another win just last month with regard to extending those tariffs to ensure we do have this more level playing field. That followed trade enforcement wins I supported for workers who manufacture hot rolled steel at ArcelorMittal in Cleveland; AK Steel in Middletown; washing machines at Whirlpool in Clyde, OH; and rebar at the Nucor plant in Marion, OH, but [[Page S2844]] also rebar made elsewhere, including Byer Steel in Cincinnati. I visited both of those plants and talked to the workers. They are working hard. They understand they have to compete. They understand it is a global marketplace. They are willing to compete, but they want to be sure it is on a level playing field, and if we do pass this legislation, it will help them in terms of getting that.

    Again, I don't think it is fair for American companies to see products coming in here that are being subsidized and undersold and yet they are not able to get the relief they need. So I am hopeful we will be able to pass this legislation as part of the customs law that is going to come before the Senate. That material injury standard is what it ought to be to ensure that, although companies now have access to seek this remedy, that they can actually get the relief they need by having this relief provided more quickly and having the standard be one that can be met by American companies and workers who are being hit with these unfair trade practices.

    I am pleased this effort is supported by a lot of manufacturers all around the country. Today, I met with the fasteners from Ohio. These are the folks in Ohio who makes the nuts and bolts and so on. They are interested in this case because, again, they see the ability for them to get a remedy when they need it. It is also supported by US Steel, Timken Steel, Nucor Steel, United Steelworkers, and others. Again, it is a classic example of working together to help protect workers and jobs in places such as Ohio.

    By the way, I hope it will pass as part of the Customs bill, but, again, I hope it is also made part of whatever legislation goes over to the House and to the President for his signature, and that may well be the legislation that includes trade promotion authority.

    I am also pleased that this Customs bill includes a measure that protects American workers and manufacturers called the ENFORCE Act. It is also part of this package of bills that is in the customs legislation. I have supported and cosponsored this bipartisan bill with Senator Wyden since it was introduced back in 2011. I have been proud to be the lead Republican on this legislation because, just as I talked about how that bipartisan bill with Senator Brown on the material injury standard is so important, we have to be sure that once we win a trade case, countries don't use diversion to go around whatever provisions are put in place.

    Let me give an example. Sometimes a case is won against one country, but then they evade those higher tariffs by moving the production to another country, and they do it precisely because the trade case has been won. It is kind of hard to keep up with that, and that is why this legislation allows the administration to go after this issue of customs evasion. Sometimes companies are spending millions of dollars a year fighting these evasion schemes. A lot of time and effort is put into it.

    It extremely concerning that these goods continue to illegally enter the country through illegal transshipment and falsified country-of- origin labeling, sometimes undervalued invoices to pay less for duties, and sometimes misclassifying goods so they can slip through our customs without being subject to tariffs.

    Let me give an example of this. Workers in Ohio produce prestressed concrete steel wire strand, called PC strand. It is one of our big products in Ohio. We are proud to produce it. It is actually made from carbon wire rod that is used to compress concrete structural members to allow them to withstand very heavy loads. This would be for let's say bridges, parking garages, and certain concrete foundations.

    There are 250 workers at American Spring Wire in Bedford, OH, and I visited them and talked to them. They are very interested in this provision because it helps them. Along with two other producers, they were a petitioner in a successful trade case against China a couple of years ago.

    As a result of that action, both antidumping duties and also countervailing duties were put in place. Why? Because this product was coming in illegally subsidized and it was dumped--in other words, sold at below cost. So they went through the right process and were able to get these tariffs in place as it related to China; however, Chinese traders began to approach U.S. producers and importers with proposals even before the case ended to circumvent this so that the trade orders that would be in place with regard to China would be circumvented by sending this product through a third country, where this strand would be relabeled and possibly repackaged to reflect a different country of origin. By doing so, these antidumping and countervailing duties would be avoided.

    And once these trade orders against PC strand were entered, Malaysia did indeed become a new source--a significant new source of imports through use of this transshipment approach.

    So that is what this legislation goes after. It says, look, when you do this--these kinds of schemes, the U.S. Government is required to investigate these cases, and requires Customs to make a preliminary determination when they have suspicion of this happening. This is a big step forward. Again, it is going to help companies, not just successfully go through the process and the great cost of winning one of these cases but actually having it mean something to them and their workers by ensuring companies don't evade it by going to a third country.

    Another way we can support American jobs that is in this customs legislation is called the miscellaneous tariffs bill. I am pleased it includes a bipartisan bill that I coauthored. I authored this bill with Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri. I thank her, and I also thank a couple of other cosponsors who have been very helpful in getting this legislation into the Customs bill and getting it onto the floor of the Senate. That includes Senator Burr of North Carolina and Senator Toomey of Pennsylvania.

    Senator Toomey has been very helpful, because under the old way, if we dealt with miscellaneous tariff bills, it was really considered an earmark because it was sort of a rifleshot, where individual Members would take up the cause. He has been very helpful in bringing that issue to the fore and ensuring that under our legislation we are not going to have earmarks. In fact, we are going to be able to have the International Trade Commission be involved to determine what the merits of the cases are, not individual Members of Congress. That is very important to me. Senator Burr has been very helpful to kind of bring the textile interests to bear here, to ensure that as we are looking at this issue of miscellaneous tariff bills, we are ensuring that the textile industry is protected as are our other manufacturers.

    The miscellaneous tariff bill is interesting. This is for extension of miscellaneous tariffs that suspend or lower tariffs on a product that is an input to a manufacturing facility in the United States, where there is no available product in the United States of America.

    Right now we are paying tariffs on products coming in here where there is no competition in America. If we can, through these miscellaneous tariff bills, either reduce or eliminate these duties, it will be less costly for our manufacturers to compete around the world and less costly for our consumers. So this is a good thing for our economy. It is something we ought to be promoting, and I thank our leadership for getting this into the customs legislation. Let's deal with this MTB issue.

    By the way, the old legislation expired back in January of 2013-- January of 2013. Since that time, American manufacturers and consumers have been paying a much higher import duty, which is essentially higher taxes, than they should have to pay. That means they can't put money into raising wages, increasing benefits for American workers, and maintaining our competitiveness.

    There is a recent study out showing the failure to pass this MTB legislation has resulted in a tax hike on U.S. manufacturers of $748 million--an economic loss of $1.8 billion over the past several years.

    This legislation is backed by the National Association of Manufacturers, along with 185 associations and companies that urge us to quickly act on this, including 8 of those companies and associations in my home State of Ohio. So this is a reform bill that immediately restarts this MTB process [[Page S2845]] later this year, resolves these earmark concerns that we had previously, and allows us to preserve Congress's traditional and constitutional role in trade policy. It is the right balance. I am excited it is in this Customs bill, along with the other provisions I talked about.

    Next week, I plan to talk more about another issue. It is not in the customs legislation, but it will be in the legislation debate regarding trade promotion authority.

    We talked earlier about the importance of expanding exports through trade promotion authority but also ensuring we had this level playing field. Part of the level playing field is ensuring that countries do not manipulate their currency, which takes away so many of the benefits of a trade agreement. Chairman Volcker of the Fed has said something I think that is interesting in this regard. He has said that in five minutes, exchange rates can wipe out what it took trade negotiators ten years to accomplish.

    We will talk more about this next week as we talk about trade promotion authority, because I do intend to offer an amendment that is targeted, that is not going to be a poison pill in any respect because I think it will actually help us get more votes for trade, which is an important thing, and it is also something that, frankly, does not affect the TPP countries immediately because none of them are violating the provisions of the IMF--International Monetary Fund--which is what we use for our definition of currency manipulation, but they have in the past, and we don't want them to in the future. We don't want them to take away the very benefits that American workers and farmers get from these trade agreements.

    I appreciate the time today to talk about this customs legislation. I am excited to have it on the floor tomorrow and have the chance to vote on all these very important enforcement provisions, to ensure that our workers and our farmers are getting a fair shake.

    Then, next week, I hope we will have the opportunity to take up trade promotion authority and move that forward, again, in a way to ensure that we are lowering these barriers overseas for our farmers, our workers, our service providers, so we can access those 95 percent of consumers who are outside of our borders and send more stuff stamped ``Made in America'' all around the world, adding jobs in Ohio and America.

    I yield back my time.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority leader.


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