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Stop China's Cheating that Steals American Jobs

 
Southwest News-Herald
October 10, 2011
By Congressman Dan Lipinski

This week, the Senate is expected to take decisive action to defend American workers from unfair trade by passing a bipartisan bill to crack down on China’s currency manipulation. As someone who has long fought for such legislation and who voted for a similar bill last year, I applaud those Senators who have stood firm in the face of pressure, and I urge my colleagues in the House to follow suit. 

When China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, some claimed American workers would benefit. But the past decade of manufacturing job losses has shown how naive it is to believe that trade is automatically good for everyone, no matter the trading partner. The reality is that China continues to manipulate the value of its currency to artificially lower the price of Chinese-made goods and raise the price of imports from America. The results for American workers have been devastating.

Two recent studies have shown just how far-reaching the impact has been. A report by the Economic Policy Institute found that 2.8 million American jobs, including 118,000 in Illinois, have been lost over the last decade due to our trade deficit with China. Meanwhile, a study by three independent economists found that cheap Chinese imports have wiped out U.S. jobs, depressed wages, and driven up costs for taxpayers to a far greater extent than previously recognized. What’s more, economists believe halting China’s currency manipulation altogether would create at least 500,000 American jobs.

But none of us who live in this area need economists’ studies to understand the impact that China’s cheating has had on American workers. We can see it every day in our neighborhoods. 

Given all this, it only makes sense to pass legislation allowing tariffs to be imposed against countries that manipulate their currency. Unfortunately, House Republican leaders have dug in their heels and are refusing to allow such a bill to reach the floor, despite the fact that many of their own members voted for it last year. It is critical that they change course, and I continue to press them to do so. 

The fight to stop China’s currency manipulation is not the only battle over trade that is occurring in Congress. By the time you read this, the House of Representatives may already have voted on proposed Free Trade Agreements with South Korea and Colombia.

Unfortunately, these NAFTA-style deals do not reflect the painful lessons we have learned over the past decades about the dangers of unfair trade and ill-conceived trade deals. When these agreements reach the House floor, I will stand up for American workers, just as I always have, and vote against them.

Under the South Korea FTA – which was originally drafted by President Bush’s administration – South Korean auto exports to the U.S. would surge, South Korean companies would be able to assemble Chinese parts and export them to the U.S. on favorable terms, and North Korea, one of the world’s most repressive regimes, could be given a chance to export to the United States. Nor does the agreement address South Korean currency manipulation. Little wonder that one study found it could cause the loss of 159,000 U.S. jobs.

Not only would the Colombia FTA result in the loss of an estimated 55,000 jobs, it would also reward the Colombian government despite its failure to prevent the killing of hundreds of Colombian workers seeking better wages and working conditions. That conflicts with both our values and our interests.

So long as it occurs on a level playing field, America has nothing to fear from trade, and much to gain. For generations, our ability to compete in the international marketplace has helped to fuel our prosperity. But we cannot allow our long history of success to obscure present realities. And the reality is that America’s workers cannot prosper if they are forced to compete with one hand tied behind their backs.