Trade representative says policy must protect key industries
U.S. policy must work to protect key industries threatened by unfair global practices, Trade Representative Katherine Tai said in Wednesday testimony.
“If we don’t keep our eye on the ball, we will continue to experience these types of fights over the last scraps of an industry that we have lost to a competitor, and in particular to the Chinese,” Tai said at a Senate Appropriations commerce, justice and science subcommittee hearing.
Tai’s statement came in response to a question from Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D) regarding the negative effects solar panel tariffs imposed by former President Trump had on the jobs of solar installers and other downstream employment.
But Tai said that unfair foreign trade practices had led to a decimation of the industry, forcing most of the near-dozen solar panel manufacturers in the United States to close. Just one remains.
“This is actually a very sad story,” Tai said.
“We can see where this pattern will play out again and again if we are not ready to anticipate the loss of industries to anti-competitive practices and massive subsidies coming from our biggest competitors.”
She pointed to the steel industry as a prime example in which overcapacity from Chinese production has pushed prices down.
Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum, however, led to retaliatory tariffs from close trade partners, and the increased price of steel had downstream effects for manufacturers who use steel in their products.
But far from endorsing Trump’s tariff strategy, Tai said President Biden’s administration is working to balance protections for key industries against some of their worst ramifications, such as increased frictions with trade partners.
“My focus is to figure out how we improve, and the effectiveness of the tools we use in support of American steelmaking,” she said in response to a question on steel tariffs from Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.).
Other manufactured products facing pressures from unfair Chinese trade practices that could require protection include cement and vitamin C.