Senators Reject Trade Agenda Without Free Trade Agreements | 2022-03-31

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U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai continued her defense of a Biden trade agenda that so far does not include traditional free trade agreements with other nations, but several senators at a hearing on Thursday have been vigorously pushed back, arguing that the United States is being left behind as China moves forward with new tariff pacts.

Senators Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, John Thune, RS.D., Robert Menendez, DN.J., Pat Toomey, R-Penn., and John Barrasso , R-Wyo., all pointed to the need for the United States to negotiate new FTAs, include tariff reduction agreements in the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), or join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership ( CPTPP) during a finance committee. hearing Thursday.

Tai pointed out that the Biden administration is reducing foreign tariffs through agreements such as the one last summer that ended the dispute between the United States and the European Union over aircraft subsidies and is also working to improve “economic engagement” through efforts such as IPEF.

Although the framework does not include provisions on market access in the traditional sense, Tai argued that it will “enhance our access to overseas markets.”

But several senators strongly disagreed.

“I define market access as free trade agreements and I just don’t see why we can’t engage,” Crapo said. “We have Indo-Pacific nations that are calling for free trade negotiations so that they can strengthen their relationship with us economically rather than being tied to China…I think we need to engage in free trade negotiations in terms of market access and not defining market access as some sort of framework or something else.

Tai, pointing to the concerns of American workers that previous free trade agreements led to job losses as manufacturing companies moved factories to other countries, insisted that new ways to improve the trade were necessary.

Senator Cantwell, referring to Tai’s remarks earlier this month in Baltimore, where she suggested the free trade agreement is a “very 20and tool of the century,” pointed out that his agricultural constituents want new FTAs.

“I’m just trying to understand this notion that somehow trade deals are 20and tools of the century and that’s something we’re not going to do anymore,” Cantwell said. “My people…in Washington State always, always want to know what we’re doing to increase market access. That’s what they want to know. Why can’t we be for opening market access now? »

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Tai replied defending her “20and commentary of the century,” calling it a “statement of fact,” and pointing out that “FTAs are something we did a lot in the 1900s… There is a place for FTAs ​​in our toolbox, but even there , I think our approach to FTAs ​​needs to be updated… to reflect today’s realities.

Senators Toomey and Thune disagreed, saying the United States was being left behind as China expanded its influence globally by negotiating new free trade deals.

“You may think it’s a 20and tool of the century, but it seems the rest of the world thinks it’s a 21st tool of the century,” Toomey said. “What that means is that China and the European Union are expanding market access for their producers…and they’re getting market share that we’re going to miss out on.”

Senators echoed a theme from Wednesday’s House hearing Ways and Means Committee, where lawmakers criticized Tai and the Biden administration for not treating the proposed Indo-Pacific economic framework more like a free trade agreement in order to demand lower tariffs from partners commercial.

“It’s a lot of really flowery rhetoric, but I’m trying to see where this (executive) is doing something to open up markets for farmers and ranchers in parts of the world where America needs…to be competitive and must lead the way,” said Thune.

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