Confronting China the Idaho way — by innovating, outcompeting and reflecting our values
| May 20, 2021 1:00 AM
China is a potent challenge to the United States on several levels — economic, strategic and moral. Republicans and Democrats can — and should — work together to formulate a China policy that can effectively confront these challenges. As Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, I stressed this message at a recent Finance Committee hearing. There is no need for a Republican or Democrat policy on China, just an American policy. An American policy is precisely that: it reflects the best of America. It reflects our competitive spirit, our leadership in innovation, and critically, our values. These principles are deeply rooted in Idaho, where ingenuity, determination and the competitive spirit are commonplace.
Competition: We must not close off our market or engage in protectionism. China closes off its market and provides distortive subsidies to create national champions. We do not fear competition; we embrace it because Idaho and America’s workers, farmers and businesses have always confronted challenges head on, and that spirit will never dampen.
Idahoans are growing and making products sold in burgeoning global markets. Idaho sold $161 million in goods to China in 2020, which ranks China sixth among the top export markets for Idaho goods, reports the U.S. Census Bureau. Idaho agriculture products sold to China include whey protein, milk powders, alfalfa hay and processed potatoes, according to the Idaho State Department of Agriculture. Idaho and American companies become global champions because the way forward in a free market is to excel, and America excels like no other in a fair fight.
And to fight at its best, America must focus on strengthening its competitiveness, which means we need to be smart in our use of tariffs. We need to cut tariffs on inputs that support American manufacturing or on goods consumed by the American consumer, especially low- and middle-income families. We also cannot let up in advocating for more transparent and efficient systems for the review of agricultural biotechnology products, which are important to Idaho producers.
Innovation: We must pursue policies that promote and reward creativity, such as strong intellectual property protections. Many of us are rightly repulsed by practices like China’s technology theft and its Great Firewall. This includes Chinese state-owned companies stealing trade secrets from Micron a few years ago. We must continue to target those actions that take aim at U.S. companies. We must also negotiate and enforce strong rules through new trade agreements, including at the World Trade Organization.
Values: Last, but perhaps most important, are our values. China’s human rights abuses are appalling. The Communist regime set its tone on human rights at its inception, and it has not improved since. What will bring down those abuses is not U.S. disengagement, but facilitating the opportunity for the Chinese people to engage themselves. Domestically, we have to stay true to our processes. That means our approach is shaped by a course that reflects our American tradition of building consensus through dialogue and debate.
Reinforcing Idaho’s and America’s integral competitive spirit, leadership in innovation and values is central to my work with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and other members of the Committee to put together a legislative package that will strengthen American competitiveness with China and benefit Idaho farmers, businesses and innovators.