Rep. Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerHillicon Valley: Progressives oppose funding bill over surveillance authority | Senators call for 5G security coordinator | Facebook gets questions over location tracking | Louisiana hit by ransomware attack Progressives oppose spending stopgap measure over surveillance authority extension House to hold markup Wednesday on marijuana decriminalization bill MORE (D-Ore.) has been in Congress since 1996. He has been in public office virtually his entire adult life. He knows his way around. And he knows that trade is essential to Oregon and to the U.S. economy. 

Now, as the new chairman of the House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee, Blumenauer is well-positioned to act on his belief that trade is one of the best ways to export American values. We hope that he works with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to eliminate obstacles to trade.


Blumenauer has demonstrated a keen understanding of the impact that tariffs have on American families and businesses.

In 2011, he wrote that “tariffs on imported goods amount to a federal tax on many basic necessities,” and added, “[e]very family in America, particularly low-income and struggling middle-class families, bears the brunt of these unfair and regressive tariffs through higher prices on essential items that working families cannot do without.” And, he noted, tariffs “do nothing to protect the jobs of Americans.”

His fellow Oregonians know first-hand the damage wrought. Oregon’s economy is largely dependent on exports, and the tariffs on Chinese goods and those China imposed in retaliation are closing off markets to U.S.-made goods.

According to Jeff Butsch, fourth generation farmers in Mount Angel, “It’s scary seeing all these tariffs and how they impact ag, especially hazelnuts. … It’s frustrating; you’re pulling your hair out.”

It’s not just farmers who are affected. Gilad Nachmani, chief executive officer of Portland-based Cnoc Outdoors, in Blumenauer’s district, said the trade war forced him to pay 10 percent more for materials from the United States, as opposed to what he could buy in China.

“Despite moving manufacturing to the U.S.,” said Nachmani, “I have to pay an extra cost on parts, … It creates this kind of absurd situation.”

Ultimately, Nachmani was forced to raise prices. “At the end of the day, no matter how we do it, the consumer is going to have to pay for it,” he said.

Brooke Sandahl, vice president of Bend-based Metolius Climbing, had to raise prices because of the steel and aluminum tariffs. According to Sandahl, “We are seeing the tariffs increasing materials substantially. Overall it’s been quite detrimental to some of our product lines.”

A nationwide coalition of farmers, retailers and other business owners calculated that in less than half a year, Oregon businesses have paid an extra $84 million because of these tariffs.

Things could get much worse, which amplifies the significance of Blumenauer using his gavel to lead on the issue. If the administration implements the full range of tariffs it has proposed, this year the average American household could lose $2,357 and 2.75 million workers could lose their jobs.

None of this is to say that there are not legitimate grievances on the trade front. And, even while being a leading advocate of increased trade, Blumenauer has highlighted those grievances, including forced technology transfers and theft of intellectual property. But working with allies through existing international trade organizations such as the WTO is the way to address these problems. Shooting ourselves in the foot – a particularly apt metaphor in Nike’s home state – is not.

As chairman of the Trade Subcommittee, Blumenauer is uniquely positioned to support efforts to provide greater accountability on tariff policy. Legislation such as the bipartisan Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act by Sens. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyNSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns MORE (R-Pa.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerBipartisan senators urge national security adviser to appoint 5G coordinator Hillicon Valley: Commerce extends Huawei waiver | Senate Dems unveil privacy bill priorities | House funding measure extends surveillance program | Trump to tour Apple factory | GOP bill would restrict US data going to China Klobuchar unveils plan to secure elections as president MORE (D-Va.) would require congressional approval when the executive branch decides to raise certain barriers to trade. Since the tariffs are a tax that affect millions of Americans, they should be made with greater coordination between the executive and legislative branches.

Blumenauer has acknowledged the hardship that tariffs impose, whether through lost jobs or higher prices. In a divided Washington, he should use his leadership position to eliminate barriers on behalf of every Oregonian, and every American.

Tim Phillips is president of Americans for Prosperity.