Opening new markets to Nebraska exporters is crucial to growing our economy. More than 96 percent of the world’s consumers live outside our country, and the efficiency of our agriculture producers gives our state the opportunity to help feed the world.
Problems arise when our trading partners choose not to follow the rules. We must not only be fierce negotiators but also vigilant enforcers of our trade laws.
We are too often told to turn inward, build our own barriers to trade, and avoid negotiating future agreements. This is the wrong course of action, as it is through our involvement in trade negotiations and our membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) where we can encourage our trading partners to adopt free market policies and ensure they follow the rules.
On September 13, I joined a bipartisan delegation of congressional leaders showing support for a new trade enforcement action brought by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) against China at the WTO. Currently, China is subsidizing domestic production of rice, wheat, and corn far more than its WTO commitments allow. In 2015 alone, Chinese subsidies exceeded the agreed-upon levels by nearly $100 billion.
These violations have distorted prices in the Chinese market and put U.S. agriculture producers at a disadvantage. At a time when our domestic commodity prices are experiencing a downturn, we cannot sit by and allow a major global power to prop up its own agriculture industry to the detriment of our exporters. Because the U.S. is a member of the WTO, we have a legal venue to dispute these unfair trading practices and hold China accountable.
Trade agreements lose their value if we do not enforce them. In my role on the Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee, I have supported numerous legislative efforts to strengthen trade enforcement. The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act updates our country’s customs and border policies and creates new oversight of USTR’s trade enforcement. The Trade Priorities and Accountability Act, or TPA, gives Congress the authority to direct and oversee the administration’s efforts on trade and ensure any trade agreements are in America’s best interest before approval.
If we choose not to participate in trade negotiations and organizations, American agriculture producers will be left behind. Other countries are not waiting for us – they are pursuing their own trade agreements in their own interests.
Right now, China is working on an agreement among 16 countries in the Pacific called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. Australia and Japan also recently negotiated a trade agreement, which has already lowered Japan’s tariffs on Australian frozen beef to 27.5 percent and chilled beef to 30.5 percent. Japan’s current tariff on U.S. beef is 38.5 percent.
We cannot afford to disengage from the global economy and adopt protectionist policies while countries are opening their markets to others around the world. Through careful enforcement of our trade laws, we can level the playing field for U.S. producers while creating more opportunity for Nebraska agriculture.