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Trade is critical for economic growth and dealing with China

by U.S. SEN. MIKE CRAPO/Contributing Writer
| December 16, 2021 1:00 AM

China’s encroaching aggression in the Indo-Pacific region is a threat to international and regional security. Trade is critical not just for economic growth and strength, but also in the context of dealing effectively with China. The Administration cannot stand idly by as China advances its own trade priorities in the region; the United States must lead by forging ambitious new trade deals with our allies. 

As Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, with jurisdiction over implementation of reciprocal foreign trade agreements, I had the opportunity in November to meet directly with the leaders of critical Indo-Pacific nation allies about shared efforts to combat China’s manufacturing imbalances, and threats to free and fair trade. Our congressional delegation trip to the region allowed us to hear firsthand the issues facing our partners in the region.  

Engaging in stronger and more consistent discussions on important and robust trade agreements with these partners remains a focus of my work at the Senate Finance Committee. Finally, we must continue to support Taiwan to ensure it remains economically and defensibly secure, confident and free from China’s increasing efforts to militarily overwhelm the island.

In connection with my official duties as a senior member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, I also participated in conversations about sanctions on Russia and Iran as well as additional efforts to combat national security threats from foreign investment, illicit finance and other economic issues. Combatting illicit finance and addressing other economic issues in the area is critical for furthering deterrence from additional international aggressors like Russia and Iran. Moreover, recent supply chain shortages have highlighted the critical importance of Taiwan’s semiconductor industry to the basic functioning of the tools we need here in America for everyday life. 

We met with officials in the Philippines, Taiwan and India to strengthen ties with these critical allies. According to the Idaho Department of Commerce, Taiwan is Idaho’s second largest trade partner, accounting for the purchase of more than $413 million in Idaho products in 2020. “Goods frequently sold to Taiwan from Idaho include high-tech products (semiconductors and computer parts), food and agriculture and personal care products,” the agency reports. The Philippines was the market for $53 million in Idaho products in 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Additionally, outside of a 17 percent drop in overall trade during 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. remains one of India’s largest trading partners.

The discussions followed the Senate’s overwhelming passage of the Trade Act of 2021, which was included as part of the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act in May. I worked with Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) to negotiate this strong trade package to push back against China in the most critical arenas we face: trade, our economy and working against China’s efforts to undercut American companies. This legislation combats China’s unfair trade practices, including censorship, and strengthens our relationship with allies, including by reauthorizing the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program — for the longest extension in the history of the program — and supporting the negotiation of digital trade agreements. The Trade Act of 2021 would strengthen America’s competitive footing and help Idaho’s hardworking producers compete globally, and I continue to press for its enactment

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Mike Crapo represents Idaho’s First Congressional District in the U.S. Senate. He can be reached at crapo.senate.gov.

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