New Bill Introduced to Level the Playing Field Against Unfair Trade Practices

US Capitol© jjgervasi / Getty Images / Canva

Senators Bob Casey and John Fetterman on Wednesday introduced the Leveling the Playing Field 2.0 Act along with several other Senators to strengthen US trade remedy laws against unfair trade practices. The bill seeks to improve the effectiveness of the US trade remedy system in response to repeat offenders, evolve threats from unfair competition, and to address the initiative of China’s Belt and Road. The act would help to level the playing field for American workers.

The legislation updates the previous Leveling the Playing Field Act, which was originally introduced by Senator Brown and signed into law in 2015, addressing evolving threats from unfair competition. The new bill would improve the effectiveness of the U.S. trade remedy system in responding to repeat offenders and serial cheaters, helping to level the playing field for American workers. Additionally, the bill responds to China’s Belt and Road Initiative which distributes Chinese government subsidies for products made in other countries.

Steel manufacturing is a key driver of Pennsylvania’s economy. Due to anti-free market practices by China and the global nature of steel overcapacity, around half of unfair trade cases are in the steel industry. This bill would update U.S. trade remedy laws to respond to predatory economic behavior by applying anti-dumping and countervailing duties after thorough investigations by both the Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission.

“Pennsylvania workers can out-compete anyone in the world if the playing field is level, but if we don’t improve our trade enforcement tools, countries like China will continue to threaten our working families’ livelihoods,” said Senator Casey. “The Leveling the Playing Field 2.0 Act would strengthen safeguards for American manufacturing and help American workers compete by cracking down on trade cheaters and investing in innovative solutions to address urgent challenges from nonmarket economies.”

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“We need trade policies that work for communities like mine in Braddock and similar places all across Pennsylvania, which have seen factories shuttered, jobs evaporate, and their main streets hollowed out,” said Senator Fetterman. “If we’re going to make more stuff in America, we need to empower American workers and hold foreign countries accountable for the damage they’re causing to Pennsylvania’s industries and workers. We need to give Pennsylvania’s workers, the best in the world, a fair shot. That’s why I’m proud to cosponsor this bill to give the Commerce Department the tools to do exactly that.”

“Bipartisan trade legislation, like Senators Brown and Young’s Leveling the Playing Field Act 2.0, show that helping American workers and their employers is a priority for Congress. Countering China’s Belt and Road Initiative by accounting for the country’s foreign subsidies and updating our trade rules to make it easier for U.S. workers and firms to fight illegally dumped and subsidized goods will ensure that we don’t lose critical supply chains to trade cheating. Ensuring our trade enforcement regime works faster ensures that workers and companies can focus on making things in America,” said Tom Conway, President of the United Steelworkers (USW).

American companies are on the receiving end of China’s increasing predatory economic behavior. In recent years, China’s unfair trade practices have culminated into serious economic consequences that affect American workers. For example, Chinese-supported companies move portions of production to other countries to circumvent American duties, a practice known as “country hopping,” and China’s Belt and Road Initiative unfairly subsidizes products made in other countries, rather than just in China. American companies also have to contend with long lead times before the Department of Commerce initiates a new anti-circumvention inquiry.

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In addition to Casey, Fetterman, Brown, and Young, the legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mike Braun (R-IN), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Joe Manchin (D-WV), J.D. Vance (R-OH) and Tina Smith (D-MN). A companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives was introduced by Reps. Terri Sewell (D-AL-07), Bill Johnson (R-OH-6), Frank Mrvan (D-IN-1), and Beth Van Duyne (R-TX-24).

The Leveling the Playing Field 2.0 Act pushes back against China’s anti-free market practices by providing the Department of Commerce with more tools to stop these anti-competitive tactics by:

  • Creating a new type of AD/CVD investigation, called a successive investigation, which improves the effectiveness of the trade remedy law to combat repeat offenders by making it easier for petitioners to bring new cases when production moves to another country.
  • Providing expedited timelines for successive investigations and new factors for the International Trade Commission to consider about the relationship between recently completed trade cases and successive trade cases for the same imported product
  • Providing Commerce the authority to apply CVD law to subsidies provided by a government to a company operating in a different country.
  • Imposing statutory requirements for anti-circumvention inquiries to clarify the process and timeline.
  • Specifying deadlines for preliminary and final determinations.

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