Hatch Blasts White House Trade Policy, Seeks Action On Trade Imbalances

Finance chairman takes aim at China over steel and aluminum production, intellectual property

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, left, said that the U.S. is currently in “one of the most challenging trade environments” that he has seen in his four decades in the Senate. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch on Tuesday issued a blistering critique of the Trump administration’s trade policy and called on the White House to take action to remedy imbalances with trade partners like China and the European Union. 

The Utah Republican, speaking at a Business Roundtable event with the Farmers for Free Trade, highlighted the threat posed to the U.S. economy by “external opponents and internal skeptics.” 

“I have been in the Senate for 42 years, and this is one of the most challenging environments for U.S. trade that I’ve seen,” Hatch said, according to prepared remarks. “When it comes to trade policy, we’re all seeing the dangerous pitfalls that are currently in our path. They threaten to undermine and undo our recent success. Fortunately, in my view, those pitfalls are avoidable.” 

Hatch, whose committee has jurisdiction over trade-related matters, dinged China in particular for, among other things, the overproduction of steel and aluminum  — one of the main reasons why Trump issued tariffs earlier this month on imports of those products

Watch: Trump Signs Steel and Aluminum Tariffs

He also took aim at another rumored Chinese target for the Trump administration: intellectual property. 

Their government and state-owned enterprises have condoned and participated directly in the theft of trade secrets and the violation of intellectual property rights.” he said. “And they’ve used the Chinese regulatory system to restrict U.S. exports and investment and to force the transfer of American technology.”

The White House is preparing to issue new tariffs that could target more than $30 billion a year in Chinese imports and impact more than 100 products from the country, according to media reports. 

But Hatch’s criticism was not limited to only China. He said the European Union “consistently targets American technology companies” and that Canada, India, and Korea “impose price controls that undermine market-based valuations of innovative medicines and medical technology.” 

And while he noted the U.S. could effectively address these problems, Hatch said individuals within the White House could exacerbate them.  

“We have an administration that is willing and capable to do so,” he said. “Unfortunately, some in the administration support foreign challenges to the American-led economic system, challenges that are trying to bring that system down.” 

Hatch singled out the recently announced 25 percent tariff on steel products and 10 percent tariff on aluminum products as particularly damaging. 

“Policies designed to dictate from whom an American manufacturer purchases its inputs and raw materials directly contradict free-market principles, as well as the work that the President and Congress have done to reduce government regulation,” he said. 

Hatch also said the Senate would exercise its power to have the final decision on the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which the Trump administration is in the process of renegotiating with Canada and Mexico, but did not provide any details. 

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