China is a major challenge for the United States on many levels – economic, strategic and moral. Republicans and Democrats can – and should – work together to formulate Chinese policy capable of effectively addressing these challenges. As a prominent member of the US Senate Finance Committee, I underscored this message during a recent Finance Committee hearing. There is no need for a Republican or Democratic 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 a competitive spirit are commonplace.
Competition: We must not close our market or engage in protectionism. China is closing its market and providing subsidies that create distortions to create national champions. We are not afraid of competition; we are adopting it because workers, farmers and businesses in Idaho and the United States have always faced challenges head on, and that spirit will never falter.
Idahoans thrive and manufacture products sold in booming global markets. Idaho sold $ 161 million in goods to China in 2020, which ranks China as the sixth largest export market for Idaho products, reports the US Census Bureau. Idaho’s agricultural 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 businesses are becoming global champions because the way forward in a free market is to excel, and America excels like no other in fair combat.
And to fight for the best, America must focus on strengthening its competitiveness, which means we must be smart in our use of tariffs. We need to reduce tariffs on inputs that support American manufacturing or on goods consumed by the American consumer, especially low and middle income families. We also cannot stop advocating for more transparent and efficient systems for reviewing agricultural biotechnology products, which are important to Idaho producers.
Innovation: We need to pursue policies that encourage and reward creativity, such as strong intellectual property protections. Many of us are rightly repelled by practices like China’s technology theft and its Great Firewall. This includes Chinese state-owned companies that stole trade secrets from Micron a few years ago. We must continue to target actions that target American companies. We also need to negotiate and enforce tough rules through new trade agreements, including at the World Trade Organization.
Values: The last, but perhaps the most important, are our values. The human rights violations in China are appalling. The communist regime set its tone on human rights from its inception, and it has not improved since. What will reduce these abuses is not the disengagement of the United States, but the possibility for the Chinese people to engage. At the national level, we need to stay true to our processes. This means that our approach is shaped by a course that reflects our American tradition of building consensus through dialogue and debate.
Strengthening the integral competitive spirit of Idaho and the United States, leadership in innovation and values is at the heart of 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 US competitiveness with China and benefit Idaho’s farmers, businesses and innovators.