One of the problems with our trade policies is while they might set up rules for competition, these rules are meaningless if they are not enforced. And, by and large, they are not.
We don’t have very good trade enforcement even when we do use it – which we largely don’t. In April’s post “How TPP Increases Corporate Power vs. Government – And Us,” I explained how we have been losing jobs because our own government does not enforce the trade agreements we enter into. The Bush administration only filed around three enforcement cases a year while China was using trade cheating to grab millions of American jobs. Then the Obama administration came in and has only filed … around three cases a year:
While China was grabbing tens of thousands of U.S. factories and millions of U.S. jobs in the 2000s, the Bush administration only filed around three trade violation cases per year. The Obama administration created a trade enforcement office in 2012 to “bring the full resources of the federal government to bear on investigations … to counter any unfair trading practices around the world, including by countries like China.” However, according to Politico last August, the Obama administration had also filed around three trade violation cases per year.
That is the record of all trade enforcement, not just enforcement of labor, environmental and other stakeholder language. According to Zach Carter and Dana Liebelson in “Here’s The Biggest Problem With Obama’s New Trade Push” at The Huffington Post:
The U.S. has a poor record on enforcing human rights and labor terms under trade agreements. A 2009 Government Accountability Office report found that American enforcement of labor terms was “ad hoc and very limited” with “minimal oversight.” Another GAO report from November 2014 found that the situation hadn’t improved much. While the Labor Department has brought a handful of workers’ rights cases under prior trade agreements, they have taken years to investigate and remain unresolved.
The American Trade Enforcement Effectiveness Act
Under current law U.S. companies have to prove that “injury” has occurred under our trade laws. So the layoffs and plant closings have to happen first, and only then can companies try to get something done. So just this year thousands of American workers have faced layoffs due to a surge in trade cheating and imports from countries such as China.
A new bill, The American Trade Enforcement Effectiveness Act (H.R. 2523), will try to do something about it.
The American Trade Enforcement Effectiveness Act will strengthen enforcement laws against unfair trade practices, like illegal subsidies or dumping products in our market at prices less than market value. It will streamline the process for addressing unfair dumping of foreign products into U.S. markets. The bill seeks to make it easier for companies and workers to seek remedy against trade cheating before the layoffs and plant closures begin.
What You Can Do
The Alliance for American Manufacturing is asking you to please tell your member of Congress to cosponsor this legislation. Click here to take action.