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Michael Michaud

A Win for Trade Enforcement (Almost)
By Representative Mike Michaud
Mar 2, 2012 - 6:11:45 AM

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I've made changing the way our country approaches trade a top priority because of how directly it impacts our economy in Maine and nationally. For once, it seems that we are about to finally improve the way we enforce trade agreements. This is a very positive development because doing so would help ensure that our businesses are on a more level playing field globally, which would help boost job creation and economic development in Maine.

On February 28th, President Obama signed an Executive Order creating the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center (ITEC), which will bring together resources from across the federal government to go after unfair trade practices in countries around the world, including China. This new office will serve as the primary forum within the federal government for executive departments and agencies to coordinate enforcement of international trade rules.

In January, I wrote a letter to President Obama requesting that he establish this new trade enforcement office, and I'm pleased to see that it's moving forward.

For too long our country has not focused enough resources on enforcing our trade agreements. Federal trade enforcement efforts currently are dispersed across numerous offices within federal and independent agencies. These agencies' enforcement initiatives are not well-coordinated and are supported by insufficient resources, leaving American businesses and workers without one consolidated resource for their trade violation concerns.

It's critical for our businesses and workers that our government has their back and enforces international trade rules. I believe a dedicated trade enforcement office would streamline efforts and help do just that.

The President signing an executive order brings us one more important step closer to the level of trade enforcement we need to counter the predatory practices of countries like China. But now that the President has acted, there is still one more step to take to ensure this new office has teeth: ensuring Congress funds it adequately.

Congress needs to step up and make this new office a priority by fully funding its operations. Politicians like to talk about the need to create a level playing field for our businesses so that they can compete in the global marketplace. It's now time that this rhetoric is backed up with action.

Too often over the years, the U.S. has opened its markets to foreign competition without ensuring equal access. And what happens is a familiar story: while we play by the rules, other countries use technical barriers or unfair duties and tariffs to game international trade laws. We've seen it directly impact Maine's paper industry and many others.

Whether ITEC is funded or not will really determine if it's a success or failure. That's why I'm taking the lead on Capitol Hill to build support for fully funding the new office. A robust and fully-funded ITEC will help fight unfair trade practices abroad and protect and grow American jobs here at home.

Creating ITEC was an important step in our nation's effort to combat trade cheaters. Now it's up to Congress to ensure it is successful. I'm hopeful, that even in this unfortunately partisan environment, members of Congress of all political stripes can come together on this.

Representative Mike Michaud

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