FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 25, 2010
SCHUMER LEADS BIPARTISAN GROUP OF SENATORS IN PRODDING OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TO PURSUE ALLEGATIONS THAT CHINA'S CURRENCY MANIPULATION IS SUBSIDY HARMING U.S. PAPER INDUSTRY—CASE COULD OPEN DOOR TO CRACKDOWN ON CURRENCY MANIPULATION
In Letter To Commerce Sec Gary Locke, 15 Senators Urge That Commerce Dept. Finally Move Forward On Subsidy Investigation
Numerous U.S. Industries Have Alleged That China's Currency Manipulation Is An Unfair Subsidy That Is Causing Them Economic Harm - Case Regarding Paper Industry Currently Sitting Before Commerce Department Could Be First Step In Much Wider Action Against China
Should Commerce Dept. Decide To Investigate China Currency Manipulation As Subsidy That Affects U.S. Paper Industry, Findings Could Be Cited In Effect On Many Other Domestic Industries
WASHINGTON, DC—Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer led a bipartisan group of 15 U.S. senators in announcing it is urging the U.S. Department of Commerce to finally move forward with an investigation of China's currency manipulation. Senators Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), joined by 13 of their colleagues from both sides of the aisle, sent a letter urging Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to launch an investigation into the U.S. manufacturing industry's allegations that China's actions with respect to its currency constitute a countervailable subsidy. The letter comes after numerous claims by U.S. manufacturers that China subsidizes its export-oriented companies through currency practices that result in economic harm to U.S. companies forced to compete with subsidized Chinese imports.
The letter has been signed by Robert Byrd (D-WV), Carl Levin (D-MI), Arlen Specter (D-PA), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Susan Collins (R-ME), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Jim Bunning (R-KY), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Robert Casey (D-PA). "The bedrock of our international economic system is fairness and a level playing field and China's currency practices violate that principle six ways from Sunday," Schumer said "Workers across New York are losing their jobs because of what China is doing to devalue their currency, and it is past time that the Commerce Department properly consider domestic industries' repeated allegations and launch an investigation. The Commerce Department has yet to take this issue seriously and we must keep pressing the agency until it does the right thing and declares that China is manipulating its currency to put U.S. manufacturers and workers at an unfair competitive disadvantage."
The Commerce Department is tasked with investigating certain unfair trade practices, including foreign government subsidization of products exported to the United States. If Commerce determines that imported products are subsidized, and if the International Trade Commission finds that the U.S. industry making the like product is economically harmed by the subsidized imports, Commerce will order the imposition of additional duties on those imports. Subsidization is considered to be an unfair trade practice under World Trade Organization rules because it distorts trade, allowing foreign manufacturers to sell products in the U.S. market at artificially low, subsidized prices, thus undercutting and causing economic harm to domestic manufacturers.
The letter references an ongoing Commerce Department investigation involving subsidized exports of Chinese paper products and the effect such subsidies, including China's currency manipulation, are having on the U.S. domestic paper industry. The letter focuses on the paper case because experts believe that the domestic industry in that case has provided sufficient evidence such that the Commerce Department is required by law to investigate whether China's currency manipulation is a countervailable subsidy. If Commerce agrees to investigate the Chinese government's actions on currency in this particular case, the results of that investigation could then be cited in other cases alleging that currency manipulation is a subsidy. This could ultimately lead to a situation where duties are placed on a wide range of Chinese products and ultimately cause the Chinese government to reform its currency practices.
The Commerce Department has investigated or is investigating subsidy allegations involving China in about a dozen cases involving products ranging from steel pipe and wire to various chemicals.
China's practice of devaluing its currency has long been a sticking point in relations between our two countries. For over a decade, China has been making promises that it would change its currency policy, yet time and time again China has altered its currency to give its manufacturers an unfair advantage over other manufacturers throughout the world, particularly in the U.S.
Around mid-July 2008, China abandoned any pretense of letting its currency appreciate. After a few years of modest progress, China's government, once again, fixed the value of its currency, the yuan, against the dollar and walked away from its commitments to reform its currency policies. The result is continued undervaluation of China's currency - by some estimates as much as 40 percent - and serious economic harm to U.S. manufacturers forced to compete against subsidized Chinese imports.
In a November 19, 2009, letter to the Commerce Department, Senators Schumer and Graham urged the Department to fully investigate allegations that China's currency manipulation is a countervailable subsidy. In a December response to Schumer and Graham's initial letter, the Commerce Department assured the senators that subsidy allegations involving China's currency practices would be assessed "no differently than any other subsidy allegation." The lack of action on this issue by the Commerce Department suggests otherwise. Right now, U.S. manufacturers have filed at least 12 allegations that the Chinese government is actively engaged in keeping the value of its currency artificially low to promote the growth of export-oriented industries, and the Commerce Department has yet to even investigate. The senators said that launching an investigation in the paper case could end up cracking the problem wide open, and lead to widespread penalties against china for currency manipulation.
A copy of the letter appears below.
The Honorable Gary Locke Secretary of Commerce 1401 Constitution Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20230
Dear Secretary Locke,
We write to express our serious concern that the Commerce Department has failed to properly consider allegations that China's manipulation of its currency is a countervailable subsidy. U.S. manufacturers have filed at least 12 allegations - most recently on January 13 in the Coated Paper investigation - that the Chinese government is actively engaged in keeping the value of its currency artificially low to promote the growth of export-oriented industries. We urge the Department to properly consider the allegation and the information provided by petitioners in determining whether to investigate China's actions.
Around mid-July 2008, China abandoned any pretense of letting its currency appreciate. After a few years of modest progress, China's government, once again, has fixed the value of yuan against the dollar and walked away from its commitments to reform its currency policies. The result is continued undervaluation of China's currency - by some estimates as much as 40 percent - and serious economic harm to U.S. manufacturers forced to compete against subsidized Chinese imports.
For example, the value of China's paper and paperboard exports to the United States increased by 21 percent between 2006 and 2008, jumping from $1.9 billion to $2.3 billion. The dramatic increase in exports is due in large part to substantial Chinese government subsidies. Those government subsidies include China's continued devaluation of its currency vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar, a government policy designed to promote and fuel continued growth in export-oriented industries. As senators from key paper product-producing states, we are very concerned that domestic paper manufacturers and paper industry workers are substantially harmed by subsidized Chinese imports.
China's mercantilist policies are undermining the health of many U.S. industries - industries that inject billions of dollars into the U.S. economy and employ hundreds of thousands of American workers. In the face of China's actions to subsidize its exports at the expense of U.S. manufacturers and workers, the Department needs to act.
In a November 19 letter to the Commerce Department, Senators Schumer and Graham urged the Department to give due consideration to allegations that China's currency manipulation is a countervailable subsidy. In your December 22 response, you assured the Senators that subsidy allegations involving China's currency practices would be assessed "no differently than any other subsidy allegation." The lack of agency action on this issue to date suggests otherwise.
Moreover, we are concerned that the agency's failure to investigate China's actions regarding its currency derives from a flawed interpretation of the legal standard for the Department's assessment of a subsidy allegation. According to your December 22 letter, in determining whether to investigate an alleged subsidy, the Department will consider if the allegation demonstrates "whether there is a financial contribution that is specific to an industry or group of industries which confers a benefit" (emphasis added). This is not the statutory standard for assessment of a subsidy allegation.
A subsidy allegation need not prove the elements of the financial contribution, benefit and specificity. Rather, the law requires that the Department initiate an investigation to determine whether a countervailable subsidy is being provided if the domestic industry "alleges" the elements necessary for the imposition of a countervailing duty and provides "information reasonably available" to the domestic industry supporting the allegations (emphasis added). 19 USC 1671a(c)(1)(A)(i) and (2). In other words, an allegation must contain information reasonably available to petitioners with respect to each of the elements of a countervailable subsidy - not definitive proof. The legislative history of the Trade Agreements Act of 1979 confirms this standard and reflects Congress' unequivocal intent that the Department "act upon all petitions which, based upon facts reasonably available to the petitioner, make reasonable allegations of the presence of the elements necessary for the imposition of a countervailing duty." H.R. Rep. No. 317, 96th Cong., 1st Sess. 51 (1979) (emphasis added).
Our review of the 11 Commerce Department determinations not to investigate petitioners' allegations concerning China's currency manipulation suggests that the Department has prejudged the outcome of a subsidy investigation it has yet to do, rather than assessed the sufficiency of the allegation on the basis of "information reasonably available" to petitioners to determine whether to launch an investigation. This is troubling and suggests that the Department is treating allegations involving China's actions on currency differently than it has treated other allegations, including other currency-related allegations involving other countries.
For example, we are aware that the administering authority previously investigated currency-related subsidy allegations in at least three other countervailing duty proceedings involving Mexico, Germany and Uruguay, and contemplated how currency restrictions could constitute a subsidy in the proceeding involving Canada. The fact that the Department and its predecessor agency have previously investigated currency-related subsidies reinforces our belief that the Department knows how to apply the correct legal standard for assessment of a subsidy allegation and has the authority under current law to investigate the most recent series of subsidy allegations involving China's currency manipulation.
There can be no doubt that China's policy of large-scale intervention in the exchange markets and the significant undervaluation of its currency acts as a subsidy to Chinese exports to the United States. We respectfully urge the Department to properly assess the most recent allegation that China's manipulation of its currency is a countervailable subsidy. In its assessment, the Department should give due consideration to whether petitioners have alleged the elements necessary for imposition of a countervailable subsidy and provided information reasonably available in support of their allegation.
During these difficult economic times, it is more critical than ever that the Department take every step possible to address these unfair practices. Assuming petitioners have properly alleged the elements necessary for the imposition of a countervailing duty and provided information reasonably available to petitioners, the Department has an obligation to investigate.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
Senators Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Robert Byrd (D-WV), Carl Levin (D-MI), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Susan Collins (R-ME), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Jim Bunning (R-KY), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Robert Casey (D-PA) and Arlen Specter (D-PA).