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Is Congress preparing a big trade gift for China?

As politically divided as the United States has become in recent years, Americans agree on one issue: China. They’re troubled by America’s heavy reliance on supply chains in China. They’re appalled by China’s use of slave labor in its factories. And they see China openly supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — and blaming the U.S. as the aggressor.

Americans don’t want to depend on a hostile nation for their everyday necessities. And so, it should be a no-brainer for Congress to act. However, as the House and Senate confer on a new China bill, the fix might be in. That’s because some Senate Republicans are pushing for legislation that would actually increase America’s dependence on imports from China.

Michael Stumo

Over the past 20 years, America has lost 3.7 million jobs to China. During that time, Beijing has progressively expanded its dominance of high-tech industries while ramping up military operations in the South China Sea. Beijing has also formalized a “no limits” alliance with Russia that includes China buying Russian oil and promoting Moscow’s disinformation on the Ukraine war.

Americans are rightly concerned about this — and want to end the nation’s dependence on factories in China. New polling by Morning Consult finds that 73 percent of voters favor trade remedies, such as tariffs on China, in order to protect U.S. industries and workers. And 71 percent want the federal government to continue imposing tariffs on China’s exports.

In February, the House passed the America COMPETES Act — legislation intended to boost U.S. competitiveness against China. The bill includes language to close a loophole currently allowing tariff-free entry for Chinese goods shipped to the U.S. that are valued at less than $800.

Unfortunately, the House legislation must now compete with a deeply flawed China bill — the USICA — that passed the Senate last summer. In contrast to the COMPETES Act, the Senate bill would actually weaken the tariffs imposed on China for stealing American technology. It would also provide tariff relief for Chinese exporters who claim “lost profitability.” In fact, the USICA would mandate that the U.S Treasury send billions of dollars to Chinese exporters as part of a “tariff refund.”

The House and Senate are currently trying to merge the two bills into the final legislation. And that’s where the American people should pay close attention since some senior Republicans are pressing for the Senate bill at the behest of multinational companies.

Pennsylvania voters should take particular note since their own Sen. Pat Toomey is a member of the conference committee negotiating the House and Senate bills. Voters should urge Sen. Toomey to stand up for U.S. manufacturers — and make sure that tariffs on China aren’t weakened simply to boost the profits of large retailers and importers.

Americans overwhelmingly favor tariffs on China. And so, Congress should reject efforts to weaken U.S. trade laws or allow for bogus tariff exclusions. It’s time to bring back American manufacturing through a robust China bill that stands up for America’s workers and manufacturers.

Michael Stumo is CEO of the Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA). Follow him on Twitter at  @michael_stumo

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