The Coronavirus pandemic sent shockwaves throughout our country, driving us into crises on both the health care and economic fronts. Our country has stepped up with unprecedented response efforts. We’ve flattened the curve, slowed the spread, and our governors now carry the heavy burden of deciding when to open their states. As we turn our country back on, we face a difficult path to return to normalcy. In order to respond to this challenge and ensure continued global economic competitiveness, there are critical steps we must take both at home and in our relationships with the rest of the world.
COVID-19 has taught us many invaluable lessons. It’s unfortunate it took a pandemic to make us aware of how interconnected we are through our international supply chains. It has given us a better understanding of the truly delicate balance of the global economy. The questions of how to rebuild our economy must be answered with a respectful and practical approach to how we connect with each other and the rest of the world.
First, we must get our own house in order. Unity in this country is critical for us to be globally competitive. Evidence is indicating that there is a growing rural-urban divide in our country that affects everything from our respective economic opportunities to our ability to effectively collaborate to solve our nation’s problems. We must do everything in our power to bridge the gap, and concentrate our efforts to undo the effects of the pandemic through a unified pursuit of economic re-stabilization.
A healthy U.S. economy capitalizes on our unique strengths. We are energy rich in Appalachia and the Rockies, and we have world-class agricultural hubs in the Midwest and South. Our manufacturing facilities serve as anchor businesses in many towns, and our technology industry has led to an urban revival. We must identify our differences, but respect and utilize them.
The obvious missing piece is connectivity. There must be a commitment to rebuild America’s infrastructure through comprehensive legislation to improve our connection and provide opportunities for everyone to thrive. We need to secure our energy industry by creating new pipelines, storage, and export hubs for coal and gas. Further, a recommitment to linking our underserved communities with new roads, bridges, railways, airports, and expanded riverways, such as the Port of Huntington Tri-State in West Virginia, will allow us to transport our goods seamlessly and send our commodities around the world. We can reaffirm our foundational industries to propel high-quality job creation.
Second, we must carefully assess the best way to remain connected to the rest of the global economy. COVID-19 has highlighted the fact that we rely on trade partners around the world to get us from concept to fulfillment. Yet, we are in a delicate time. There is potential that a fear-based overcorrection will lead to a global increase in trade barriers. We cannot fall into the trap of allowing the pendulum to swing too far with knee-jerk reactions.
In the past year, President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump goes after Cassidy after saying he wouldn't support him for president in 2024 Jan. 6 panel lays out criminal contempt case against Bannon Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Agencies sound alarm over ransomware targeting agriculture groups MORE has moved mountains and compelled China to agree to provisions previously considered as undoable by many through the phase 1 agreement, which must be honored and implemented. However, our relationship with China will never return to what it was pre-COVID, and this pandemic has reinforced our need for change.
As we examine how to proceed, Congress has a key role to play. We should work in tandem with the administration to create a roadmap that reflects an evolving bilateral relationship of managed competition and cooperation.
This roadmap must continue to push back against China’s market-distorting industrial policies such as subsidization of state-owned enterprises and forced technology transfer. It must proactively align with our international allies, in particular the EU, to ensure that China truly abides by its commitments. Congress should also reestablish critical dialogue vehicles, such as the U.S.-China Inter-parliamentary Exchange, and engage private sector leaders to help develop a long-term and comprehensive trade agreement that reflects the realistic horizon of the world’s two largest economies.
Reforming the World Trade Organization is also essential. The WTO is outdated and stagnant. It doesn’t account for our modern digital and interconnected economy, doesn’t include rules that address many of China’s most problematic behaviors, and didn’t prevent many countries from imposing trade barriers in light of the pandemic.
The USMCA unveiled a new standard for modern trade agreements. One which we must build upon and never regress from. The WTO should codify these objectives internationally, and unleash a new gold standard, keeping our country in the driver’s seat. Additionally, we must take the opportunity to work with our partners, including the EU, UK, Japan, Brazil, and India, to modernize the WTO to effectively level the playing field and where appropriate, reestablish new supply chains in sensitive technologies, medical devices, and therapies. Additionally, we have the opportunity to engage and advance U.S. presence in emerging markets, like Africa and beyond.
Congress has numerous Constitutional advantages, including Trade Promotion Authority, to accomplish these goals. We are uniquely suited to withstand the ebbs and flows of political expediency to achieve lasting measures. We also have the oversight and legal capacities to define and carryout meaningful objectives and strategies. Congress can work with the administration to ensure the United States has a lasting trade approach that will deliver us from our current predicament and send us on an expanding economic trajectory.
With the tools of multilateral, high-standard modern trade agreements and WTO reform that properly holds all accountable through rule of law, not rule by law, we can reestablish what trade means in the U.S. and around the world. By improving and unifying our country, we can reaffirm a commitment to every area of the United States. With a strong economy and robust infrastructure, we can build a bridge between our rural and urban communities. This is the path to victory and success. It is up to us to deliver it for the American people.
Miller represents West Virginia’s 3rd District.