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Ribble, Baldwin team to oppose unfair trade

Associated Press

MADISON — In a bipartisan show of support, two Wisconsin members of Congress have teamed up to try to shield American manufacturers from unfair trade practices by countries such as China and Vietnam.

U.S. Reps. Reid Ribble and Tammy Baldwin have introduced legislation that would amend a 1930 tariffs law to allow duties to be applied in certain markets. It’s a measure that could benefit Wisconsin’s paper-makers and other industries, the Post-Crescent of Appleton reported.

A federal appeals court ruled in December that the U.S. Commerce Department had no legal authority to impose countervailing tariffs on imports that were subsidized by their host countries. The court ruling is scheduled to take effect March 5, and if Congress doesn’t act before then, the Commerce Department would have to stop collecting tariffs and pay back money it already had collected in countervailing cases.

Baldwin, D-Madison, and Ribble, R-Sherwood, proposed the CHEATS Act, or the China Hurts Economic Advancement Thru Subsidies Act, which would allow countervailing duties to be applied in certain cases.

The lawmakers said the measure could benefit many Wisconsin companies that had been hurt by China’s trade practices, including Appleton Inc., Appleton Coated LLC, Award Hardwood Floors LLP, Felker Brothers Corp. and NewPage Corp.

“China has been cheating their way to the top with unfair trade practices, and it’s time to put a stop to it,” Ribble said. “Wisconsin manufacturers produce some of the highest quality products in the world, and we need to make sure that China doesn’t unlawfully push them out of the marketplace.”

U.S. companies in the steel, paper and other industries have argued for years that other countries subsidize their local companies, enabling them to sell in America at prices too low for U.S. companies to compete. In cases where the Commerce Department found evidence to support those claims, it allowed tariffs to be imposed on the imported products.

The tariffs are subject to regular reviews to ensure they’re still warranted.

Baldwin, who is running for U.S. Senate, said American manufacturers “deserve our full support in combating China’s relentless pattern of international trade law violations. The simple fact is China cheats.”

The appeals court ruling upheld a 2009 decision by the U.S. Court of International Trade in a case dealing with the tire industry.

Commerce Secretary John Bryson and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said in January that if the ruling was applied, it would affect 24 existing countervailing duty orders on imports from China and Vietnam, five pending investigations and two recently filed petitions.

“This would seriously undermine the ability of the United States to remedy the harmful effects of unfairly subsidized imports,” they wrote in a letter.

Baldwin and Ribble said U.S. companies in some industries were at a disadvantage because of Chinese practices that violated international trade law. For example, China provided more than $33.1 billion in subsidies to its paper industry from 2002 to 2009, allowing it to supplant the U.S. as the world’s largest producer of paper and paper products, they said.

Appleton Inc. executive Kent Willetts said he was happy to see the two Wisconsin lawmakers look past partisan differences to support Wisconsin manufacturers and workers.

“It is a great day,” he said, “when policymakers can set aside their political differences and fight together to support hometown business and jobs.”

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