Trade must take center stage for Congress

Sunday, Feb. 19, 2023 | 2 a.m.

After two years of Democratic control in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, lawmakers began 2023 with a Congress divided, leaving a great deal of uncertainty around how they would manage to address the issues voters care about most.

One of the issues with the most questions swirling around it is trade. Several key proponents for trade will be leaving their positions, which means there is little certainty as to how the new Congress will handle the issue. Now, a slate of new legislators and key committee leadership will be left to take the lead on finding solutions to some of the complex issues looming over our nation’s trade relationships.

With inflation making it harder to afford basic necessities and supply chains finally getting back on their feet after the difficulties of the past two years, ensuring trade works for all Americans will be critical for Congress as it begins the new session. At its best, trade can lift our economy and position our industries to lead the world. Trade can’t work for Americans, though, as long as we remain locked in a trade war with China.

Since the beginning of the trade war in 2018, it has been clear that tariffs aren’t an effective way to hold China accountable for its unfair trade practices. The cost of the tariffs — which Americans were told would be paid by China — has fallen most heavily on consumers and businesses right here in the United States, holding our economy back at a time that it is particularly vulnerable and families are struggling.

The effects have been felt across all sectors of the economy. Agriculture, manufacturing and technology have been hardest hit by these tariffs, and the pain is ongoing. No matter the industry and no matter the state, the trade war has dealt a blow to the American economy that hurts all of us. For a nation struggling to get inflation under control and remain competitive globally, the tariffs represent little more than a counterproductive, self-imposed cost that cannot be allowed to continue. As the trade war inches close to its fifth anniversary next year, its cost to American importers recently surpassed $160 billion.

That needs to change.

With the next session of Congress officially underway, members must prioritize working alongside President Joe Biden, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and other administration leaders to end the tariffs. It is important to hold China accountable for its trade abuses, but it is now clear that tariffs don’t work. They don’t punish China; they place a tax on the things Americans need to support their families and build successful businesses. The longer they remain in place, the higher the costs will be.

A host of new faces in Congress combined with a split balance of power means that a lot of issues will remain up in the air. The trade war, however, cannot be one of them. It is long past time to end the tariffs that remain in place on so many critical goods, and to free industries across the economy from the costs those tariffs have imposed.

Americans deserve better than they have received on trade for the past five years, and the new Congress has the opportunity to deliver.

Cindy Choi is vice president of the Nevada AAPI Chamber of Commerce.