Weekly Columns

Roe: Free and Fair Trade Allows the U.S. to Be Competitive

f t # e
Washington, June 27, 2018 | Lani Short (202-225-6356) | comments

President Trump made many commitments to the American people and has done an exceptional job of keeping those promises. One of those promises was to grow our economy and create jobs so that every American has opportunity. That’s why I was proud to support the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which has resulted in a thriving economy and an unemployment rate of 3.8 percent nationally last month, and it’s even lower in Tennessee at 3.4 percent. In addition, in a survey completed by the National Association of Manufacturers, a record 95.1 percent of manufacturing companies are reporting a positive outlook for their companies. Many businesses have credited the tax law for giving them the certainty they need to invest in, and grow, their workforce. Our country is seeing economic confidence and prosperity increase thanks to the pro-growth policies Congress and the Trump administration are promoting.

Another one of the president’s campaign promises was to confront unfair trade practices that have led to Americans losing their jobs. Right here in the First District, it wasn’t long ago that there were thousands of manufacturing jobs that have been lost. My own father lost his manufacturing job to Mexico, so I believe President Trump is right to call out unfair trade practices and to act to address these bad actors. Some countries – China in particular – have engaged in unfair trade practices and stolen our technology, and the president is right to fight back.

With that being said, I am concerned that the tariffs the administration has pursued in response to these unfair trade practices have been applied too broadly and the retaliation other countries are considering may actually harm other sectors of the American economy. Our manufacturing sector in East Tennessee is robust, and jobs are coming back across the state. After talking to many of the employers in our region who rely on being able to sell their products not only in the United States but abroad as well; I am concerned broad tariffs have the potential to stifle economic growth in East Tennessee. This is why we must ensure any tariffs are carefully and strategically enforced. 

Earlier this year, I joined House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady and several of my colleagues in Congress in writing to the president applauding his willingness to tackle unfair trade practices, but urging a targeted approach in how he applies tariffs. Earlier this week, I also joined Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn and several of my Tennessee congressional colleagues in writing to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross to highlight the potential negative impact that retaliatory tariffs could have on a number of industries thriving in Tennessee. By outlining the ways in which these tariffs should be implemented, it is our hope the idea of broad, undefined tariffs is reconsidered. In our state, 146,000 jobs are supported by global exports, so it is imperative that American producers maintain access to foreign markets. 

As a result of these tariffs, many of our long-standing allies have begun the process of implementing retaliatory tariffs on American exports. Last week, the European Union began tariffs on bourbon, peanut butter and orange juice, which add up to around $3.4 billion of U.S. products. In Tennessee, farmers are already experiencing the negative side effects to these tariffs and have raised concerns about additional retaliatory tariffs. Other sectors, like the motor and equipment manufacturing industry that employs over 4,200 East Tennesseans, rely heavily on trade and have indicated that retaliatory tariffs could have job impacts.  

Protecting jobs that are unfairly harmed by Chinese companies’ illegal trade practices is crucial; however, we must not put our domestic employers at a disadvantage. I am hopeful President Trump will consider more targeted application of his tariffs to strategically hold countries with unfair trade practices accountable. We can level the playing field without harming American employers.

As always, feel free to contact my office if I can be of assistance to you or your family.

f t # e