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Peters Reintroduces Bipartisan Bill Targeting Unfair Trade Practices From Foreign Competitors

Michigan Manufacturers, Growers Hurt By Trade Dumping & Subsidies; Bipartisan Effort Strengthens Commerce Department’s Ability to Self-Initiate Investigations into Unfair Practices

WASHINGTON, DC U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) announced he reintroduced bipartisan legislation to help small and medium-sized businesses that are negatively impacted by unfair trade practices from foreign competitors. Currently, many agricultural producers, manufacturers and parts suppliers lack the resources needed to identify unfair practices and bring them to the attention of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The Self-Initiation Trade Enforcement Act, which Peters reintroduced with U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), would establish a task force within the Department to investigate potential trade abuses and better ensure it has the tools and abilities to support American businesses.

“Michigan cherry growers spent millions of dollars to elevate how they were being undermined by unfair trade practices – at a time when they were already losing profit because of trade abuses. They – and other commodity growers and small industries – deserve a level playing field,” said Senator Peters, a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. “I’ve been encouraged by conversations I’ve had with the Biden Administration about the need to self-initiate trade investigations. This bipartisan legislation is needed to ensure small businesses and industries are protected against unfair foreign competition.”

“As we continue to recover from the unprecedented economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s critical that American small and mid-sized businesses stay competitive in an increasingly global economy,” said Senator Burr. “This bipartisan legislation takes steps to protect these businesses from unfair trade practices and levels the playing field for American manufacturers and agricultural producers. I’m proud to work with Senator Peters on this bill and it is my hope our Senate colleagues will join this bipartisan effort to prioritize American products and businesses.”

“Creating a level playing field for Michigan cherry growers remains one of our top priorities," said Julie Gordon, President, Cherry Marketing Institute. “I applaud Senator Peters for continuing the fight on behalf of Michigan’s hard working farmers to combat the steady growing unfair trade practices that continue to drive down grower prices, often below the cost of production, for many small agriculture industries like ours.  Trade enforcement has to happen soon in order for  U.S. specialty crop growers to survive in this ever changing unjust global market.”

“Michigan specialty crop growers continue to face unfair competition from foreign governments and companies, but building a case and challenging a foreign country is an extremely expensive undertaking,” said Carl Bednarski, President, Michigan Farm Bureau. “Tart cherries, blueberries, cucumbers, squash and asparagus are just a few of the industries being undercut by unfair trading practices. Michigan Farm Bureau applauds Senator Gary Peters and Senator Richard Burr for tackling this issue head-on and introducing legislation that can help our growers initiate formal complaints against unfair, foreign competitors.”

“Having been through a lengthy trade dispute before the International Trade Commission over imports of tart cherries from Turkey, I fully support the introduction of the Self Initiation Trade Enforcement Act,” said Nels Veliquette, Vice President and CFO, Cherry Ke, Inc. “All domestic industries face ongoing pressure from imports for access to the US market. Tracking and analyzing trade data is a time consuming and thankless task. Providing support to small and medium sized businesses is crucial as the strain of unfair foreign competition is one factor that could be effectively managed with support at the Federal level. In agriculture we face ongoing challenges with weather, access to labor, housing availability and logistics so adding a mechanism of this kind to address an issue that will continue to persist is welcome. I urge support and ultimate passage of this legislation introduced by Senators Peters and Burr.”

“Michigan's cherry industry is a small part of the national agricultural landscape made up of small family farms,” said Isaiah Wunsch, CEO, Wunsch Farms. “The downward price pressure that our industry has faced in recent years due to counteravailable subsidies, dumping, and circumvention by our counterparts in Eastern Europe and Central Asia has left many farms struggling to keep up with bills, and has meant that many of our state's cherry farmers have been unable to draw a household income from their farming operations, let alone spend millions of dollars on pursuing relief through existing legal remedies. Senator Peters’ action to level the trade playing field and provide new tools for small industries like ours to make sure that we have a fair shot at competing in the global economy is both timely and meaningfully useful as we seek remedy for the dumping issues that the cherry industry has faced in recent years.”

“Michigan farmers grow the world's highest quality fruits and vegetables,” said Ben LaCross, Manager of Farming Operations, LaCross Farms. “But foreign governments have targeted US farmers by subsidizing their crops and sending them to market in the US. This is an unfair trade practice, and it harms Michigan's farmers. Senator Peters continues to fight for Michigan's farmers by introducing this legislation. Its passage is a critical first step towards protecting America's fruit and vegetable farmers.”

Currently, manufacturers and agricultural producers face unfair foreign competition from others that use practices including 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.

While the Commerce Department holds the right to self-initiate antidumping and countervailing duty investigations, the power is rarely exercised. This bipartisan legislation was originally modeled after a recommendation within the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission’s (USCC) 2016 report to Congress, and would help reduce the negative effects on targeted businesses. The Self-Initiation Trade Enforcement Act would create a team solely focused on studying trade data and subsequently listing potential disturbing trade patterns for formal investigation, with an emphasis on cases impacting small and medium-sized businesses.

Peters has been a strong advocate for Michigan small businesses, particularly during this unprecedented economic and public health crisis. Last month, Peters reintroduced a legislative package that would support small and medium sized manufacturers by addressing both short-term supply chain issues highlighted by the pandemic and longer-term problems related to a lack of a national manufacturing strategy. Peters also this past March successfully led efforts to enact significant funding for the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) – a program that Peters helped establish as a member of the U.S. House – within the American Rescue Plan Act. Additionally, Peters this past February introduced the bipartisan Make It in America Act, which would make it harder for federal agencies to use waivers to get around Buy American requirements, require the federal government to give preference to American companies and spend taxpayer dollars on American-made products and American jobs.