On behalf of the AFL-CIO, I am writing to urge conferees meeting on the Bipartisan Innovation Act (COMPETES and USICA) to focus on reaching an agreement that will promote the interests of U.S. workers and confront the Chinese government’s unfair trade practices. Crafted properly, the COMPETES/USICA conference can present Congress with a rare opportunity to improve the United States’ competitiveness across a broad cross-section of industry, science, trade, and technology.
The COMPETES and USICA bills are often referred to as the “China” bills. However, USICA’s trade title would benefit China’s economy more than ours by lowering tariffs and continuing our over-reliance on China in key sectors. Conversely, the COMPETES trade title contains numerous proposals that would strengthen our trade laws, enhance our ability to meet critical needs and make us more competitive with China.
We urge you to include the $52 billion in funding for the CHIPS Act which will sustain U.S. leadership in semiconductors and address the current chip shortage that has hampered production in the automotive sector and elsewhere. The CHIPS Act is also critical to helping curb China’s aggressive non-market trade distortions that have contributed to the offshoring of U.S. production and the downward pressure on employment and wages.
Importantly, the research and innovation provisions in each bill will strengthen our nation’s technology and innovation infrastructure, mandate worker participation in our federal research enterprise, expand STEM education, and promote vital research and development. We also strongly support the provisions authored by Representatives Blunt Rochester, Kinzinger and Malinowski that will bolster U.S. supply chains and reduce dependence on critical materials from China. These provisions will encourage domestic manufacturing expansion with fair guardrails, and ensure that labor and management cooperate in the creation of well-paying union jobs.
The COMPETES Act contains important provisions that should be included in any competitiveness package that purports to challenge China’s increasing economic dominance. These include renewal of robust Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA); the Brown-Portman, Sewell-Johnson Leveling the Playing Field Act 2.0; the Casey-Cornyn, DeLauro-Pascrell-Spartz-Fitzpatrick National Critical Capabilities Defense Act; and the Blumenauer Import Security and Fairness Act that would halt China’s exploitation of U.S. de minimis policy.
As indicated previously, the COMPETES Act includes critically important fixes to the trade title that was added at the last minute to the Senate USICA bill. These include stronger protections for workers under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and restrictions to the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill in order to restore its historical purpose of exempting components, and not finished products, for goods to be produced domestically. The COMPETES Act also removes harmful language from the Senate bill that would unnecessarily tie the administration’s hands with regard to China 301 tariffs and weaken US enforcement of trade laws that are necessary to stop China’s illegal trade practices.
Passage of a conference bill with strong competition provisions will provide critical and overdue enhancements to America’s global competitive capabilities, support workers whose jobs are lost to trade, and protect and expand the tools to fight foreign unfair trade. Language from the USICA trade title that directly benefits China has no place in a package designed to increase U.S. competitiveness with that nation. The AFL-CIO urges you to focus your efforts on leveling the playing field against unfair trade practices, and improving opportunities for America’s hard-working families.
Director, Government Affairs