The Obama administration has been under increasing pressure from labor, business and Congress to take stronger steps to level the playing field for American companies and to assume a more aggressive approach in combatting unfair trade practices. Earlier this year, the president announced the creation of an interagency Trade Enforcement Unit to bring together resources and investigators from across the federal government to go after unfair trade practices in countries around the world.
It has been a particularly uphill battle with China, the world’s second largest economy and one of the most persistent violators. Through currency manipulation, subsidies, tariffs, intellectual property theft and other such barriers to free trade, China has achieved an enormous trade advantage over the United States. In 2011 the U.S. trade deficit with China soared to a record $295.5 billion.
Against that backdrop, the fourth round of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) was held in China last month. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton represented the United States. The U.S.-China S&ED was established in 2009 to address the challenges and opportunities of the U.S.-China bilateral relationship on a wide range of issues. At the latest meeting, both countries reaffirmed the importance of building a cooperative partnership and announced measures to move the relationship forward.
China is not the only area for concern on the global stage. The European debt crisis represents another significant challenge. It was the primary topic for discussion at the G-8 summit at Camp David last month, the largest gathering of world leaders to ever convene at the Maryland retreat. The leaders debated whether tough austerity or stimulus was the best approach in Europe and, in the end, concluded a balance of both to be appropriate.
Hopefully, President Obama was taking notes. Just a few miles away, a similar debate is taking place on Capitol Hill over the budget. The G-8 meeting preceded a larger 2-day meeting of the NATO alliance at Chicago’s McCormick Place. The 60 heads-of-state and global leaders tackled issues such as post-war Afghanistan, NATO modernization and Europe’s missile defense shield.
Strong trade promotion support is as important as aggressive trade enforcement policy when it comes to expanding the global footprint of U.S. manufacturing technology. AMT’s Manufacturing Mandate supports public policy that increases trade opportunities for AMT members, but that doesn’t mean increasing spending programs. Last month, the U.S.–Colombia Free Trade Agreement went into effect and the inaugural meeting of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement Joint Committee was held in Washington. Free trade agreements ensure a framework that sets the ground rules and benefits all participating trading partners.
Business and labor are seeking stronger assurance that fair trade barriers are addressed in future trade deals, including the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). AMT joined a group of manufacturers in a letter to Secretary Geithner and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk requesting that they include rules governing currency manipulation as a key point of TPP and any future trade agreements. The administration joined the TPP in 2009 as part of its National Export Initiative’s goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2014. The nine member countries – the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalem, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam – recently concluded its 12th round of negotiations in Texas and hope to conclude with an agreement within a year. Japan is seeking entry into the group.
As part of AMT’s effort to increase export opportunities for our members, the association has entered into a strategic partnership with the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service called the “New Market Exporter Initiative (NMEI).” Through the NMEI, AMT helps facilitate our members’ contact with government resources available to help U.S. manufacturers maximize their exporting potential. Visit www.export.gov/AMT to learn more.
It’s important for American businesses and workers to keep the pressure on Congress and administration officials for concrete action toward a more level global playing field. More and more business opportunities and jobs will be lost if our federal government does not increase efforts to improve trade enforcement and support trade promotion. Contact your members of Congress to let them know that in today’s global marketplace a more favorable trade environment is critical to American competitiveness and long-term economic growth.
For more information, contact Amber Thomas at athomas@AMTonline.org or Graham Schnaars at gschnaars@AMTonline.org.