April 17,2024

Wyden Hearing Statement at Trade Agenda Hearing

As Prepared for Delivery

Today I’m going to discuss the ways in which Congress and the administration can work together to build a trade agenda that will supercharge America’s diverse industries and create good-paying and innovative jobs across Oregon and nationwide.

Let’s start with trade enforcement: without enforcement, our trade laws aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.

India’s wheat subsidies are distorting prices and making it harder for Oregon’s farmers to compete in the Asian market. Mexico’s illegal fishing practices are hurting the environment, and its harmful energy regulations are undermining American clean energy suppliers.

China has a rap sheet of unfair subsidies and trade practices so long, we’d be here until dinnertime just to get through it. But I’ll spare everyone the filibuster. 

Every single one of these unfair practices by foreign countries is directly hurting workers and companies in the United States, including in my home state. 

There’s a lot more USTR can be doing with the tools it has – whether that’s raising issues directly with trading partners, starting dispute settlement, or opening 301 investigations into unfair trade practices. That’s the only way to hold trade cheats accountable and level the playing field for American workers and businesses. 

Next up: trade barriers. Our economy thrives when our workers make and grow stuff here, add value to it here, and ship it around the world—but we can’t do it with all these barriers in place.  

In my home state, one in four jobs relies on exports. Oregon has world-renowned exports from wheat, to potatoes, to wine, to high-tech electronics and everything in between. But the success of Oregon's farmers and workers depends on the administration knocking down barriers to help them compete in the global market and get their products on shelves. 

That’s why, in addition to enforcing the rules on the books to hold trade cheats accountable, USTR can and must be playing offense. It’s not enough to sell domestically, the United States must expand opportunities in the global market for American exporters across every industry.

The negotiations with Taiwan, Kenya, and Indo-Pacific countries could net big wins for our exporters in agriculture and manufacturing – but only if the administration pushes hard to crack down on tactics like unfair labeling, duplicative testing requirements, and ag regulations that aren’t supported by science and are designed to put American workers, farmers and ranchers at a disadvantage. 

Before I wrap up, I’ll also note our country, particularly my home state,  has set the standard on high-tech, innovative industries. The United States needs to be a leader in setting the rules of the road for digital trade so our creators and innovators get a fair shake in foreign markets.  

I take a backseat to no one when it comes to privacy, security, and antitrust enforcement. While lawmakers look to domestic tech regulation, we must also push for digital trade rules that will protect the free and open internet, help small businesses, and push back on China’s model of digital surveillance and censorship.

I’m glad the White House is taking charge on this issue and working with diverse stakeholders and agencies to develop a whole-of-government position. I look forward to working on a digital trade position that reflects the needs of American workers, businesses, and consumers.

I’ll close with this: The American people deserve to know what the government’s priorities are with regard to trade policy. Unfortunately, I have strong concerns that this administration has moved away from working with Congress and, as a result, is keeping the American people in the dark.

To that end, I’m asking USTR to be straight with Congress and the public. When you take meetings with foreign officials, it isn’t enough to say “a range of bilateral concerns” were raised.  Tell us what trade barriers you’re trying to break down, and how that will help American workers and businesses.

If negotiators are meeting with the Japanese, tell us if they’re pushing to get Oregon potatoes on shelves in Japan. When officials engage with Indonesia, tell us if you’re pushing against unfair licensing requirements that hurt Oregon’s dairy farmers. In your negotiations with Kenya, tell us how you’ll push them to improve their environmental and labor laws or bring down barriers to biotech products.

Fishermen in Newport and ranchers in Prineville want to know exactly how USTR is helping their businesses thrive in the global market. So I need you to shed some light on trade policy.   

In my mind, enforcing laws on the books and making our government’s trade policy priorities clear is a good place to start to level the playing field for the American people. I look forward to today’s discussion about how Congress and the administration can work together to make it possible.