President Joe Biden has called on the Congress to pass legislation to help shape America’s long-term response to China’s geopolitical belligerence. Despite the partisanship on Capitol Hill, it appears that enough lawmakers in both parties will set aside electoral politics, and come together to strengthen U.S. capabilities to retain America’s dominant status for decades.
In fact, a conference committee has begun it work, where House and Senate members, from both political parties, will come together to hash out a piece of legislation that can pass both chambers, and be sent to the President for his- signature.
The conference committee is trying to work out the differences between two pieces of legislation that have already passed the House, and Senate, respectively.
In January, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced the America Competes Act of 2022. According to the Speaker this proposal would “supercharge” U.S. investment in microchips and bolster domestic manufacturing and research capacity. On February 4th, this bill passed the House, with only a single Republican in support.
The House legislation is a companion to the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), a Senate bill, which passed with bipartisan support last June. The USICA would provide nearly a quarter-trillion dollars over the next five years to improve our economic competitiveness with China. Through scientific research and grants, USICA would bolster American innovation in the industries of the future such as advanced semiconductor production, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and advanced telecommunications technology such as 6G.
A conference committee allows the Congress to introduce new provisions not included in either piece of previously passed legislation. During the conference, Congress should consider expanding the law to include additional components that I believe could secure bipartisan support and strengthen America’s position in dealing with an increasingly aggressive China.
First, it is essential that the Congress codify the State Department’s advisory on businesses or suppliers operating in the Xinjiang region. This area is where ethnic Muslims – including Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and ethnic Kyrgyz – are being widely used as slave labor.
We must not tolerate any company hoping to do business in the U.S., from profiting from slave labor and ethnic cleansing. This must be a red line, and I believe recommitting to this position would send the world a clear message that the U.S. remains, and always be, a beacon of freedom and religious tolerance. In my opinion, our commitment to human rights is an advantage we have over China and it must be aggressively leveraged.
Second, lawmakers on Capitol Hill must bolster the Biden Administration’s ability to protect the U.S. food supply chain from Chinese influence and interference. This includes increased scrutiny of Chinese state-linked companies operating in the U.S. as well as additional flexibility for the Administration to apply tariffs on products that threaten the vitality of American farmers and agricultural producers.
Congress and the Administration must continue to be vigilant to prevent Chinese government subsidized products or goods sold at below cost to undercut American agriculture. In fact, former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy recently outlined in the Des Moines Register the quiet threat China poses to the U.S. food supply chain through the dumping of cheap subsidized amino acids that are used by U.S. pork and poultry farmers. This effort to control our food supply chain cannot be overlooked by Washington.
I am confident that these two ideas – disincentivizing corporations from profiting from slave labor and protecting America’s food supply chain – could achieve bipartisan support. Both demonstrate our nation’s commitment to internationally accepted norms on human rights and a rules-based trading system.
Finally, the bipartisan effort underway in Congress reflects national popular opinion and a desire for action. Polls over the last year have made it clear that the American people view China as a serious threat that must be effectively managed. With this in mind, it is essential that our leaders in Washington react vigorously and pass legislation to help the U.S. beat back China.
Beijing’s blatant disregard of basic human rights and its efforts to pursue economic growth at any cost is the foundation on which President Xi and the Chinese Communist Party maintains its totalitarian regime. I know my former colleagues on Capitol Hill will work together on a bipartisan basis to send the message that America is united in advancing our interests and core values of liberty and human rights.