U.S. Must Achieve Balance in Trade Relations with China (Rep. Wally Herger)

Trade is so important to our globally-integrated economy. The U.S. is the number one trading country in the world, and China is our third largest trading partner. On Thursday, the W&M Trade Subcommittee held a hearing on China and trade remedies. As in the other hearings on China the Subcommittee has held this year, I emphasized the need to achieve a "balance" -- that we look at our economy as a whole and accommodate the interests of import-sensitive industries as well as those U.S. manufacturers that rely on imports to stay competitive worldwide. (Click here for my full statement text.)

Congress needs to do what's best for our economy, and that means we need to treat all U.S. manufacturers equally. Now, I have no problem with penalizing China if it is not playing by the rules. But there are several bills pending in Congress that seek unfairly to ratchet-up duties on Chinese imports. Through artificially high duties, these bills would overtax U.S. companies that use the imported goods, like steel, in their manufacturing process.

And these bills have an even larger problem. While it is critical that China live up to its WTO obligations, the pending legislation would have the U.S. run afoul of its own international legal obligations. As I mentioned at the hearing, many in Congress say, "Who cares if we violate the WTO?" To them this is an abstract and intangible concept, and therefore not important. But, I assure you, it’s very real to the 19,000 small and medium sized businesses that export to China -- accounting for $11.4 billion in trade -- who could potentially face trade retaliation in foreign markets as a result.

If we break the WTO rules, then other countries will seek to punish U.S. companies by raising tariffs, ending intellectual property protections, or creating barriers to our service sector exports. Retaliation often hits companies who had nothing to do with causing the WTO violation in the first place. It’s not fair to the companies that have been singled out, but it’s the way the system works.

Yesterday the Club for Growth held a press conference to highlight a bipartisan petition signed by over 1,000 economists urging balance in this debate. During the event I noted that, as the number one trading nation in the world, America needs to keep balance foremost in mind.

Although the Council on Economic Advisors estimates that only 3% of long term job loss is due to trade, we often hear of people losing their jobs because of trade. On the flip side of this argument, a statistic I recently came across is interesting: For every job in the steel producing sector of our economy, there are 40 jobs in the steel consuming sector -- illustrating the risk of losing jobs if we act on unbalanced legislation that doesn’t take all segments of our economy into account.