May 14,2015

Press Contact:

Keith Chu (202) 224-3789

Wyden Emphasizes Enforcement of Trade Laws as Key to “Trade Done Right”

As Prepared for Delivery

Today the Senate is kicking off the trade debate with a clear statement that the NAFTA playbook is gone. This is a new day in trade policy, and that starts with the recognition that vigorous enforcement must be at the forefront of America’s trade policy in 2015 and beyond.

You can pack trade agreements chock full of lofty goals and principles, and you can amass all the enforcement tools you want, but it doesn’t do any good if the tools stay locked in a shed. And in my view, that’s been happening too frequently for too long.

The status quo on enforcement just doesn’t cut it. And as I’ve listened for many months to senators on both sides of the aisle to the early stages of this debate and talked with senators on both sides of the aisle, I believe there’s widespread recognition that our approach to trade has to change. Because without that change we aren’t going to have the best possible path to creating the best paying jobs for our people in the modern global economy.

The Senate has an opportunity in this debate to throw away the 1990s NAFTA playbook and introduce fresh, middle-class trade policies that are built to succeed in the modern world.

Here’s the bottom line – this trade enforcement bill is a jobs bill that protects American workers and exports from the misdeeds of trade cheats. And with the universe of sneaky tactics that our competitors use, that’s a challenging job.

They play cat and mouse games with our customs agents using shell companies, fraudulent records, and sophisticated schemes. They bully American businesses into relocating factories and jobs or surrendering valuable intellectual property. They spy on our companies and trade enforcers to steal secrets and dodge accountability. And they mask their activities by obscuring paper trails and perpetrating outright fraud.

So our challenge in 2015 is to stay ahead of these schemes. The enforcement legislation before the Senate is all about guaranteeing that the U.S. has a queen on the chessboard no matter what competitive tactic it’s facing.

That starts with a proposal I first offered years ago called the ENFORCE Act. Foreign companies are constantly trying to cheat and evade duties by concealing their identities and shipping their products on untraceable routes. The ENFORCE Act will give our Customs agency more tools aimed at cracking down on that behavior.

Another major upgrade I fought for is what I call an “unfair trade alert.” This new alert system is going to set off the warning bells long before the damage is done when American jobs and exports come under threat.

One of the big fears you hear about trade is that our enforcers are incapable of stopping the trade cheats before it’s too late. By the time somebody in Washington catches onto the newest unfair threat that’s undercutting an American business, the plant’s been shuttered. The factory lights have gone out, and the workers lives have been turned upside down. In a lot of cases, if you’re talking about the small towns that dot the landscape in Oregon and elsewhere, that abandoned facility might have been the beating heart of an entire community.

The slow pace of action in Washington should never be the reason Americans lose their jobs, and that’s why this unfair trade alert is so important.

Next, Congress is going to lay down clear priorities for our trade enforcers – centered on jobs and economic growth. And there’s going to be much more accountability and follow-through baked into our enforcement system.

Senator Brown added a proposal called the Leveling the Playing Field Act that will help make sure that our trade remedies laws are fully enforced and strong enough to stop unfair trade at the border.

In years past, the trade debate in Congress used to come down to a simple transaction of Trade Promotion Authority for Trade Adjustment Assistance. What I said in developing this package of bills – and what more than a dozen pro-trade Democrats said on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week – was that the Senate needed to aim higher this time around. The status quo wasn’t good enough, and the NAFTA playbook had to go.

Tough, robust, effective enforcement is at the core of a new, modern American approach to trade. This is a big part of how you get to what I call “trade done right,” and how you guarantee that trade gives everybody in America a chance to get ahead. Those are propositions that, in my view, deserve strong, bipartisan support here in the Senate. So I urge my colleagues to support his enforcement package.