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Washington Outlook Archive

Congressmen Support Crackdown On Chinese Imports

James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

Key members of the House of Representatives are supporting legislation that would crack down on what they see as illegal trade practices by China in an effort to win congressional support for the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA). The legislation for the first time would permit the United States to levy punitive import duties on illegally subsidized goods from state economies such as China. It also would punish countries that manipulate their currencies to gain an international trade advantage.

Rep. Phil English (R-Calif.) is sponsoring the legislation, and he received the blessing of Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) chairman of the House Ways and Means committee. Up until this time, Thomas has been opposed to the anti-China legislation, but he said the English bill is strong and responsible legislation. Earlier this month, the Senate passed DR-CAFTA by a vote of 54-45, but the outlook in the House is uncertain, as there is strong Democratic opposition and lack of support from some Republicans, including a number of textile-state representatives who have either announced their opposition or are non-commital. On July 16, President Bush flew to North Carolina to drum up support in the textile states. He said DR-CAFTA is a pro jobs bill that would help stabilize the economies of the Central American states and create trade opportunities.

Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-NY), a powerful Democratic representative on the Ways and Means Committee, also has introduced a bill calling for countervailing duties on goods from state-run economies and punitive action against currency manipulation. The Democrat bill goes ever further than the Republican bill in that it would tighten the definition of currency manipulation and require the president to file a complaint with the World Trade Organization within 90 days of a determination of manipulation.

Textile industry lobbyists have long sought the ability to file countervailing duty cases against state-run economies such as China, and have been calling on the US government to take action against Chinas currency manipulation, which they say amounts to as much as a 40-percent subsidy on imports.Rep. Thomas said he would like to see the punitive legislation acted on before the House considers DR-CAFTA later this month,

July 2005