|Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown
© AFP/Getty Images/Brendan Smialowski
WASHINGTON (AFP) – Accusing China of building a “Great Wall” of unfair trade practices, US lawmakers unveiled legislation Thursday to retaliate against Beijing for allegedly killing US jobs by manipulating its currency.
“US manufacturers, we know, can compete with anyone. But when China manipulates its currency, that’s not competing, that’s cheating,” charged Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown.
Brown spoke at a press conference with other lawmakers to showcase a bill to allow the US government to treat currency undervaluation as an improper subsidy for Chinese goods — thereby opening the door to retaliatory duties.
Republican Representative Tim Murphy said Beijing offers below-market loans to its businesses, mandates local content to keep US manufacturers out of its markets, and charged Chinese firms “steal (US) patents and copyrights.”
“All of this has created a Great Wall of illegal and unfair manufacturing and trade practices and we cannot, we should not, and we will not, sit idly by” as those policies wipe out US jobs, said Murphy.
The proposal mirrored a bill that cleared the US House of Representatives by a 348-79 margin in September, but stalled in the US Senate.
Republican Representative Dave Camp — who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee with power over taxes and trade — has reportedly said a currency bill was not a priority, but signaled openness to a broader measure covering all of the allegedly unfair Chinese practices.
Brown said he had heard “encouraging words” from the US Treasury Department on the measure, and predicted “the president will sign this bill if we get it to him.”
The move came days after the US Treasury Department cleared China of official accusations of currency manipulation last week, but said progress toward allowing the yuan to appreciate was “insufficient.”
China has pledged to allow the yuan to gain value, but at a measured pace so as not to destabilize its rapidly expanding economy.
Democratic Representative Jim McDermott called China’s approach “a boot on the neck of the working man in this country.”