Alpena News: Peters introduces trade enforcement bill

Sen. Gary Peters has introdced a bill that, if passed into law, could help small- and medium-size businesses fight back against unfair trade practices by other countries. President Donald Trump already has pledged his support for the bill after a bi-partisan meeting at the White House last month.

The Self-Initiation Trade Enforcement Act would create a task force at the International Trade Administration, an agency within the Commerce Department, to investigate unfair trade practices by foreign competitors that make it harder for American business that produce products to compete.

Peters said large industries and corporations can afford to hire teams of attorneys to build cases against those abusing trade and then work with the ITA to levy actions against the accused. He said small companies don’t have the resources to do so, but the new law would make it easier to identify trade violations and action to be taken by the department of commerce.

“It would be able to do action on its own against a country,” Peters said. “It could implement tariffs or put quotas into effect. I know American workers can out compete anyone in the world if there is a fair playing field, but with some countries, like China, there isn’t a fair playing field.”

Peters said cherry producers is one industry being impacted by unfair trade practices. He said many small and medium sized cherry producers are having to compete with the low prices of cherries being imported from Turkey. Peters said Turkey floods the market with cherries that will sell for a lower rate than ones grown in Michigan. He said a tariff or quota likely would help and any type of retaliation from Turkey would be unlikely.

“I think any type of retaliation is unlikely because it would still want to do business with the United States,” Peters said. “If there was a quota the volume shipped here would be much lower and wouldn’t flood the market and our local businesses would be able to compete.”

As for the meeting with Trump, Peters said there were 20 elected officials who attended the trade meeting. He said he was one of four Democrats at the meeting. During the discussion, Peters mentioned the bill and how it would benefit small businesses around the country. During the exchange, Trump agreed to help and directed Commerce Secretary Wilber Ross to work with Peters and co-sponsor Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina to get the legislation passed.

Peters said Trump’s support for the bill and goal to fight against unfair trade practices is important and he expects Trump to follow through on his promise to support the bill.

“I have no reason to think he won’t follow through. He called it a great bill and said he would get behind it,” Peters said.

Peters said he isn’t opposed to Trump taking action against countries that abuse trade laws, but said when implementing tariffs, such as those promised on steel and aluminum, it is important that there isn’t unforeseen consequences. He said a tariff on foreign steel may not have a large impact on the large automobile manufacturers, but the smaller parts producers could be impacted. Peters said if the price of steel would go up too much, smaller manufacturers may have to purchase cheap and weaker steel that China could flood the market with.

“We need to make sure all of our trade policy is well thought out so we don’t have any unintended circumstances,” Peters said. “We do need to take action against these countries that aren’t playing by the rules or playing fair.”

The bill has been formally introduced to the Senate and referred to the finance committee. Sen. Angus King, an Independent from Maine, and Sen. Debbie Stabenow have cosponsored the bill.

By:  Steve Schulwitz
Source: Alpena News