Committee Passes Merkley Amendment to Level the Playing Field for Oregon Companies

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley led an effort today to pass an amendment to the funding outline for fiscal year 2014 paving the way for legislation to level the playing field for American businesses and workers by strengthening enforcement of U.S. trade agreements and U.S. trade laws.

In industry after industry, China and some other trading partners have artificially lowered the prices of their products with subsidies illegal under international law in order to drive American producers out of business.  Last year, solar manufacturers led by Solarworld, whose U.S. headquarters is in Oregon, won an anti-dumping case.  A similar case is currently pending accusing Chinese firms of selling plywood below cost thanks to unfair subsidies.  Merkley’s amendment would enable Congress to pass legislation strengthening the administration’s ability to investigate and challenge these illegal practices without triggering budget law obstacles.  

“On a level playing field, American workers and businesses can out-compete anybody in the world,” said Merkley. “The problem is that while we play by the rules, our competitors often do not. This amendment says that we need to put the focus back on enforcing our trade agreements and laws so that we have a robust manufacturing sector that provides good-paying jobs for American families.” 

A February 2013 report from the Alliance for American Manufacturing and the Economic Policy Institute shows that cracking down on unfair trade would create jobs and spur economic growth.  The report found that the results of more robust enforcement over three years would include: 

  • Creating between 2.2 million and 4.7 million U.S. jobs (equal to between 1.4 percent and 3.0 percent of total nonfarm employment), including from 620,000 to 1.3 million manufacturing jobs,
  • Reducing the national unemployment rate by between 1.0 and 2.1 percentage points,
  • Increasing U.S. GDP by between $225.0 billion and $473.7 billion (an increase of between 1.4 percent and 3.1 percent), and
  • Reducing the U.S. goods trade deficit by $190 billion to $400 billion.

Strong trade enforcement is critical to:

  • Protect U.S. intellectual property;
  • Combat foreign subsidies, dumping, state-owned enterprises, currency manipulation, and other aspects of foreign industrial policies;
  • Uphold meaningful labor and environmental standards, protect food safety and other regulatory standards, and ensure global access to health care and medicine;
  • Break down discriminatory and arbitrary non-tariff barriers, from agricultural barriers to technology standards; and
  • Ensure open and transparent, rule of law-based governance environments and advance human rights.

Senator Merkley cited the need for trade enforcement and leveling the playing field for American businesses during his “Made in Oregon” tour last year when he visited manufacturing companies across Oregon.

The amendment was the second Merkley addition passed today by the Budget Committee.  Earlier in the day the committee voted for a Merkley amendment to create jobs harvesting timber in overgrown forests.