On the premise that proposed legislation to strengthen trade laws would stifle competition, the National Retail Federation (NRF) is urging a Senate committee to reject these U.S. trade remedy laws. According to the NRF, existing measures are already being abused and the proposed changes would only open the door to increased protectionism.
"We have concerns about over zealous and inappropriate actions involving U.S. trade remedies laws, including antidumping, countervailing duty and safeguards measures," says Erik Autor, NRF vice president and international trade counsel. "Waving the banner of fair trade, some domestic industries have taken advantage of popular anxiety over trade and globalization to push for protectionist measures and legislation to limit foreign competition and pad their own profit margins at the expense of U.S. consumers.
"They argue that the U.S. trade remedies laws must be strengthened and enforced more vigorously to make it easier to obtain protection from import competition," Autor continues. "They exploit widespread misunderstanding about what the trade remedies laws are and what they are intended to do with erroneous claims that major changes are needed to punish illegal and predatory trade.
"We firmly believe that there is no need to strengthen current laws to make it easier for petitioning industries to obtain relief," Autor adds. "The fact is that U.S. trade remedies laws are already vigorously, even zealously enforced."
Autor says retailers have seen a notable increase in trade remedy investigations against imported consumer products, citing an antidumping case against wooden bedroom furniture and safeguards actions against imported apparel as examples.
Most antidumping cases and countervailing duty cases are decided in the favor of the U.S. manufacturers who bring the cases, and that "backdoor political deals have been cut," he charges, in order to impose safeguards measures against apparel imports and even to consider self initiating antidumping cases.
"It is not in our national economic interest to create a trade remedies system that becomes an arbitrary, politically influenced means to provide a few favored industries automatic relief from import competition," Autor continues. "Such a system merely becomes an instrument of protectionism that undermines U.S.
competitiveness, hurts millions of American consumers and is incompatible with where our country needs to be in the 21st century global economy.
"To support a modern, globally competitive U.S. economy," he argues, "we need trade remedy rules that are balanced and fair, inclusive of all affected parties and compatible with commercial practices."
Autor says the NRF is concerned about proposals that would apply countervailing duties law to non market economies without precluding double counting with antidumping cases, deem currency imbalances as an export subsidy under countervailing duties law, or restrict presidential discretion to consider national economic interest.
The proposals would "allow manufacturers to further abuse and game the system to attack legitimate fair trade," he concludes. And some would violate World Trade Organization rules while exposing U.S. exporters to billions of dollars in WTO sanctions, Autor warns.
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