The ongoing effort to expand products covered by the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) got a helpful congressional boost at today’s trade hearing by the Subcommittee on Trade of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) began the hearing, expressing the frustration so many are feeling with China’s “intransigence” on this effort, underscoring the importance that any final deal must include key U.S. products. He also spelled out in no uncertain terms that China is on the hook for helping to reach a strong final agreement by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ summit to be held in Beijing this November. Anything short of that, Chairman Nunes said, would “reflect a serious failure in China’s leadership.”
Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) joined the discussion on ITA expansion during an exchange with Ambassador Michael Punke, the deputy U.S. Trade Representative, who was testifying at today’s hearing. Rep. Boustany also very helpfully made the link to the APEC leaders’ summit and stressed that China cannot be allowed to “wreck” this deal.
For his part, Ambassador Punke weighed in as an ever forceful champion of ITA expansion on a number of occasions during the hearing, highlighting that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Secretary of State John Kerry, and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman were all in Beijing last week pressing China to be more forward-leaning during the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. He also said that while incremental progress is being made, China is not there yet in terms of ambition level.
These and other helpful references to ITA expansion during the hearing are encouraging to U.S. industry and add to the steady drumbeat for China to raise its ambition level and help conclude this agreement.
We anticipate we’ll see more statements of congressional support for ITA expansion at tomorrow’s hearing on “The Role of Trade and Technology in 21st-Century Manufacturing” before the Senate Finance Committee.