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Peters and Burr Introduce Bill to Protect Small Businesses from Unfair Trade Practices

WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Richard Burr (R-NC) today are introducing bipartisan legislation to help enforce trade laws for small and medium-sized businesses that are undercut by unfair trade practices. Under current law, the Commerce Department has the authority to self-initiate investigations into dumping and subsidies, but rarely utilizes this authority. The majority of their investigations begin only after companies or industry representatives lodge formal complaints. Small and medium-sized businesses, including agricultural producers, manufacturers, parts suppliers, and paper goods producers, often lack the resources needed to identify unfair practices and bring them to the attention of the Commerce Department.

“Small and mid-sized businesses in Michigan and across the country are working hard to make great products for consumers, but they often face unfair competition from foreign companies that flood American markets with artificially cheaper goods,” said Senator Peters. “Smaller companies with limited resources may not have the ability to identify trade violations, or worse, they fear retaliation from governments in foreign markets where they sell their products. This bipartisan bill will ensure American manufacturers and agricultural producers can compete on a level playing field.”

“I’m pleased to join Senator Peters as a cosponsor of this legislation to encourage the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration to flag more potential trade abuses for investigation,” said Senator Burr. “This bill will help put small and medium-sized business on a more level playing field against unfair imports. With Secretary Ross’ support, I hope my colleagues will join us to protect American trade in the global economy.”

The ­­­­­­Self-Initiation Trade Enforcement Act would create a permanent task force at the International Trade Administration (ITA), an agency within the Commerce Department, to investigate dumping and subsidies on imported goods. Dumping is an unfair trade practice where foreign competitors intentionally lower the price of their goods to make it harder for American companies that produce raw materials, manufactured goods and agricultural products to compete. Additionally, U.S. manufacturers are disadvantaged when imports are subsidized by foreign governments. The task force would be charged with independently researching trade data and subsequently referring identified trade abuses for further formal investigation by ITA, with an emphasis on cases impacting small and medium-sized businesses.

At a bipartisan trade policy meeting held at the White House earlier this week, Peters raised this proposal with President Trump, who indicated his support for initiating investigations into trade violations on behalf of small and medium-sized businesses. In 2016, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission recommended the creation of such an office to identify and pursue antidumping and countervailing duty cases to improve the United States’ response to unfair trade practices by China.

“Senator Peters and Burr’s Self-Initiation Trade Enforcement Act is a necessary and important step toward ensuring a more effective and timely response to China’s unfair trade practices, especially for small and medium enterprises in the United States,” said Michael Wessel, Commissioner on the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. “For too long, the burden has been on the private sector to have our trade laws enforced. Our companies are essentially being forced to compete with countries and their predatory policies. The U.S.-China Commission recommended creating a task force within the International Trade Administration whose purpose is to identify and initiate anti-dumping and countervailing duty cases and I believe it will be an integral part of levelling the playing field for American businesses and workers.”

“I strongly support efforts to enforce existing trade laws. Small farmers and business owners in Michigan’s cherry industry simply do not have the resources to defend against unfair trade practices from other countries,” said Phil Korson, President, Cherry Marketing Institute. “I thank Senator Peters for consistently championing this effort. Anything that can be done to maintain robust domestic agriculture production is critical to the future of our country.”

“For years, my business and farms across Northern Michigan have been hurt by foreign competitors looking to undercut American cherry production,” said Ben LaCross, Manager of Farming Operations, LaCross Farms. “This bill can help ensure that cherry farmers have a voice in addressing trade violations that impact us. I appreciate Senator Peters’ efforts and support for our state’s agriculture industry.”