Thank you all so much for being here. My name is Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy, I represent Florida’s 7th congressional district, and I serve on the Ways and Means Committee’s Trade Subcommittee.
This will be the first briefing in a series of briefings I plan to hold on trade issues that affect America’s economy and security.
Today’s topic will be the U.S.-China trade conflict. We have an incredible panel with deep practical experience and academic expertise. You should have received a document with their bios.
Our panelists will each give short remarks and then we’ll open it up to Q-and-A from me, any other Members, and the audience. I want to turn it over to our panel as soon as possible, but I hope you’ll indulge me as I offer a few brief comments to frame our discussion.
Trade policy matters because it stands at the intersection of domestic policy and foreign policy. It affects both quality of life here at home and our relationships abroad. It can have a positive impact or a negative impact, but it will definitely have an impact—so it’s critically important we try to get it right.
I think the panelists would agree that we are in the middle of one of the most consequential and controversial periods in trade policy in our nation’s history. Trade has moved from the margins to the center of our national conversation. These days, it’s hard to turn on the TV, open a newspaper, or scan social media without encountering a discussion of trade, especially as it relates to U.S.-China trade tensions.
I also think it’s fair to say that the public’s growing interest in trade is largely a result of the Trump administration’s trade-related actions, which—whether you love them or hate them—are extremely assertive.
This should come as no surprise, but I’m a big fan of Article I and the balance of powers. I think it’s critical for Congress—which has constitutional authority over foreign commerce, after all—to conduct oversight of the executive branch’s trade agenda with equal assertiveness, supporting the administration where appropriate and pushing back when necessary.
Alongside the effort to modernize our trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, America’s trade dispute with China is—by far—the most urgent trade issue on our docket. You should have received a document, prepared by the Congressional Research Service, that summarizes the chronology and nature of the ongoing tariff conflict between our two nations.
Today, my hope is that we can break down this complex issue by seeking answers to four simple questions.
First, what are the Trump administration’s goals? What does it hope to achieve with respect to China? What specific Chinese policies and practices do we find objectionable?
Second, has the administration’s main tool—tariffs—been effective? Have they helped achieve the goals it has laid out?
Third, how have these tariffs—and the counter-tariffs that China has placed on many U.S. exports—affected the U.S. economy, U.S. companies, and U.S. workers? Has the impact been severe, substantial, or slight? What will the impact be if additional scheduled tariffs are put in place? Fortunately, we have panelists who can speak to the impact of current and potential tariffs and counter-tariffs on the agriculture, retail, and technology sectors. There has also been significant impact in the manufacturing sector, which we can discuss in the Q-and-A.
Fourth and finally, are there realistic alternative policy approaches that are more likely to achieve legitimate U.S. objectives vis-à-vis China and less likely to damage American economic interests in the process?
Naturally, I do have a personal perspective on these questions—and perhaps it will be confirmed or challenged by the panelists today.
I think China’s unfair trade and investment practices violate the letter and spirit of its WTO commitments. I think we need to work in a strong, smart, and strategic way to compel China to change course. At the same time, I am concerned that the Trump administration’s primary tactic—tariffs—has done more damage to the United States than to China, has done little to get China to change its problematic conduct, and has been deployed unilaterally without the meaningful involvement—much less the blessing—of Congress.
I also believe that the Trump administration has separately taken a series of trade and non-trade actions that have made it more difficult for other nations to join the U.S. in a united front against China, which would give us increased leverage to make Beijing alter its trajectory. I think this has been a real missed opportunity.
With that said, let me turn it over to our great panelists. I’ll just quickly introduce all of them and then they can each speak for about five minutes.