Senate Dems unveil trade agenda

Senate Dems unveil trade agenda
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Senate Democrats are trying to seize the reins from President Trump on trade, launching a set of proposals they say will save jobs and boost growth while White House plans sputter.

Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerRed-state Dem tells Schumer to 'kiss my you know what' on Supreme Court vote Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick Trump's latest win: More Americans are saying, 'I quit!' MORE (N.Y.) along with five of his colleagues, unveiled on Wednesday seven trade tenets as part of their recently overhauled economic agenda aimed at reconnecting with voters who bolted for Trump’s ticket in last year’s elections.

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"The problem is President Trump has talked a good game and done virtually nothing on trade except study it, he even backed off on steel and aluminum" something that is very important for states of those leaders, Schumer told reporters during a press conference on Capitol Hill.

"We need action," he said.

“If President Trump wants to work with us to get these things done, good, we need a better deal for American workers, period.”

Democratic House and Senate party leaders have been working together to sharpen their 2018 economic message and last week unveiled  “A Better Deal” aimed at voters in heavy manufacturing and energy-producing states.

The five other Democrats Senators — Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowDem senator: Kavanaugh sides with 'wealthiest special interests' Judge on Trump shortlist boasts stint on Michigan's high court Conservatives see Kethledge as 'Gorsuch 2.0' MORE (Mich.), Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyDem senator: Kavanaugh would 'turn back the clock' on women's health care Election Countdown: Latest on the 2018 Senate money race | Red-state Dems feeling the heat over Kavanaugh | Dem doubts about Warren | Ocasio-Cortez to visit Capitol Hill | Why Puerto Ricans in Florida could swing Senate race Trump delivers another promise to conservatives with Supreme Court MORE Jr. (Pa.), Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinAnalysis: Dark money groups have funded 44 percent of 2018 congressional ads The Hill's Morning Report — Trump readies for Putin summit: 'He’s not my enemy’ Dem senator: Kavanaugh would 'turn back the clock' on women's health care MORE (Wis.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyDoug Jones walks tightrope on Supreme Court nominee Red-state Dem tells Schumer to 'kiss my you know what' on Supreme Court vote Overnight Health Care: Official defends suspending insurer payments | What Kavanaugh's nomination means for ObamaCare | Panel approves bill to halt employer mandate MORE (Ind.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinDoug Jones walks tightrope on Supreme Court nominee Red-state Dem tells Schumer to 'kiss my you know what' on Supreme Court vote Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick MORE (W.Va.) — all hail from states that Trump won in November where his anti-trade message appealed to voters.

Trade has been viewed as an area where congressional Democrats and Trump may be able to work together.

But any cooperation on that front has largely fallen by the wayside as Trump has publicly slammed Democrats for failing to help push his agenda through Congress.

Still, Schumer said he welcomed help from Republicans as Democrats plan to roll out a series of bills in September aimed at chipping away at their trade agenda.

“We need to revamp our trade laws from top to bottom," he said.

The Democratic trade agenda covers a range of political leanings from tackling currency manipulation, which has been a bipartisan issue in the past, to “Buy America” policies that may appeal to the more liberal wing of the party and also has been touted by Trump.

The Democrats argue that their new proposals would reinvent the trading system and make it work better for U.S. workers ahead of big business, who they argue benefit the most from international trade.

Raising wages and creating jobs will require a major rewrite of “backward trade laws that have put foreign workers ahead of American workers,” Schumer said.

Trump talked tough on trade during the campaign, vowing to revive U.S. coal and steel industries while cracking down on China’s unfair trade polices, a message that clearly resonated with voters throughout the heartland.

On Wednesday, Schumer railed against China’s practices, arguing that trade policies must be put in place that stop Chinese companies from taking over vital American industries such as robotics, semiconductors and Hollywood move production. 

“It’s all over,” Schumer said. “We’ve got to stop it.”

"They do not play by the rules," Schumer said of China.

The Democratic agenda calls for the creation of the American Jobs Security Council that would evaluate and block, if necessary, the sale of a U.S. company to a foreign entity, notably China, if it is determined it hurts economic security and could lead to the theft of American intellectual property.

“China has made a profession of doing this,” Schumer said. “We’re not going to let them do it anymore.”

“We’re not opposed to foreign investment but we’re opposed to investment that only benefits the bottom line and leaves workers out in the cold,” he said.

Trump is considering a major trade action against Beijing while plans to slap higher tariffs on aluminum and steel from China on hold for now.

The U.S. Trade Representative is expected to probe the intellectual property protections practices of China that requires the sharing of technology that flows into the Communist country, according to news reports. 

Although nothing is expected soon, Trump could potentially use a "Section 301" case to impose duties on countries that break trade rules.

Trump has been signaling that he would punish China for what he considers a lack of action on reining in North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

As part of the trade plan, Democrats are pressing for a renegotiation of the the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a step beyond the commitment made by the Trump administration and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

The U.S., Mexico and Canada are expected to start NAFTA talks on Aug. 16 in Washington. Those discussions will be focused on updating the 23-year-old deal, not performing a wholesale overhaul.

There are likely some NAFTA policies that will mesh with Democratic goals, including stricter enforcement.

But any rework will likely fall short of a Democratic desire to fully renegotiate the deal.

In their plan, Democrats also are pressing for the implementation of an outsourcing tax on U.S. companies that move jobs and factories abroad, while creating tax incentives for companies that relocate foreign jobs back here.

Trump has promised to levy hefty new tariffs on products shipped into the United States by companies that move their operations to another country.

The plan also calls for an independent trade prosecutor, an idea floated by Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton to Trump ahead of Putin summit: 'Do you know which team you play for?' 10 things we learned from Peter Strzok's congressional testimony Get ready for summit with no agenda and calculated risks MORE during the campaign, to challenge trade practices the U.S. views as unfair, without relying on the World Trade Organization process.

Democrats also are calling for new rules to penalize federal contractors that outsource manufacturing jobs. 

The agenda also would require taxpayer dollars to be spent on U.S. companies for all federal public works and infrastructure projects and current rules be revised to limit Buy America loopholes.