Lawmakers Look to Crack Down on Unfair Chinese Competition

Senators are looking for bipartisan solutions to ensure that American workers have the chance to compete fairly with China. 

People walk past a bank’s electronic board showing the share index of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Monday. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

WASHINGTON (CN) — Over the past two decades, the United States has been falling further and further behind in a cold trade war with China, which has created a $134 billion trade deficit in advanced technology, a $2.4 trillion loss in intellectual property and a loss of 3.7 million U.S. jobs. 

“There has been a decades-long effort by the Chinese government to manipulate global competition in their favor by any means necessary,” Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon said in a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Thursday. 

Wyden, a Democrat who chairs the committee, described how unfair subsidies, theft of intellectual property, shakedowns in cutting edge technology and policies that meddle in supply chains hurt U.S. consumers and producers. 

“From solar panels to soybeans to software and everything in between, American workers, farmers and our economy at large have been exposed to China trade cheating for too long, and the consequences are visible,” Wyden continued. 

Committee members met with experts on China and those affected by Chinese competition on Thursday, to flesh out ideas on how to beat back against unfair Chinese competition practices in a three-hour hearing that delved into digital trade, censorship, monetary policy and more. 

David Baer, chief operating officer of Element Electronics, told senators that with the lack of U.S. production of LCD panels and high tariffs on LCD panels imported from China, his company has gone from 520 team members at the end of last year to 370, and is no longer operating at full capacity. 

Baer urged Congress to pass legislation that would provide relief from tariffs, like restoring the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill, which lapsed last year. Other witnesses suggested that Congress incentivize innovation, plot new trade agreements, better coordinate with allies, enhance global data oversight and crack down on Chinese human rights abuses. 

“To me, this diversity of topics shows that this is a substantial, difficult and multipronged issue that China presents,” Wyden said. 

Witnesses made sure to clarify that the hearing was not to disparage the Chinese people. 

“Rising anger and aggression targeted at people of Asian descent here in the U.S. or around the globe is unacceptable,” said Michael Wessel, a commissioner on the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. “We must be careful in our debates.”

On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee overwhelmingly backed the Strategic Competition Act of 2021 in a 21-1 vote, which would press the Chinese government on economic competition and human rights abuses. Other lawmakers separately introduced the Endless Frontier Act, which would increase investment in research and development in a bipartisan effort to boost innovation and enhance competitiveness with China. 

“China is a potent challenge to the United States on several levels—economic, strategic and moral,” said Republican Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho, ranking member of the committee. “Republicans and Democrats can—and should—work together to formulate a China policy that can effectively confront these challenges.”

Wyden said the finance committee is also working on new legislation that will be combined with bills from other committees to form a larger package on building up American competitiveness. 

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