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Sen. Portman discusses farmers' plight, offers solution

By Norwalk Reflector staff • Feb 7, 2019 at 9:13 AM

In an interview with Bloomberg’s Daybreak on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) discussed President Trump’s State of the Union address, as well as trade relations with China and the misuse of Section 232 of the U.S. trade laws.

Later in the day, Portman introduced his bipartisan Trade Security Act, which is intended to preserve the Section 232 trade remedy tool while ensuring it is used only for genuine national security threats.

Excerpts of his interview can be found below:


“I represent a lot of farmers in Ohio who are already deeply concerned about what’s happening with the regard of the application of Section 232, which is the national security waiver. Because other countries like Canada, Mexico, the European countries and so on, are retaliating against our agriculture products. Same with our manufacturers. They’re retaliating against them as well. So, the 232, which is a national security waiver, really an exception to our trade laws, says you don’t have to prove any unfairness. You don’t have to prove that there’s dumping or selling below cost. You don’t have to prove that there is subsidization. You don’t have to prove that there’s a surge of imports that are harming the U.S. industry. You simply evoke a national security waiver and say we’re going to keep this product out.

“What we’re trying to do in Congress is to help narrow that again so it’s truly for instances of a genuine national security. The president has talked about doing this in regards to cars and autos, in general as you know, and small trucks, and that would be a real problem for American consumers. The cost of cars would go up over $2,000 we’re told. But also for U.S. companies who rely on this supply chain that are global, to make cars here. Our hope is the legislation that we’re going to introduce today, which is 232 reform, will constrain the 232 power so it goes back to its original intent. China is not playing by the rules, when they cheat, they ought to be held to account. But other countries that are playing by the rules, and are not dealing unfairly with us, I think you have to be careful about slapping tariffs on them, because they’ll simply retaliate and eventually we’ll lose the ability to be able to have a national security exception to our normal trade laws.”


“When I was U.S. Trade Representative, our top priority was China. We were able to achieve some success, we were able to take China to the World Court for the first time, the WTO, and win a case. But frankly, implementation was lacking. China continues to insist that they will play by their own rules. We need to have them not just buying more of our products to deal with, as our president said, our chronic the trade deficit. By the way he said reduce it, not eliminate it, which I thought was interesting. They are willing to buy more soybeans apparently, and willing to buy more of our LNG gas. The broader issue is how do you deal with some of the structural problems, particularly intellectual property and their lack of respect for it and therefore their ability to use the current trading rules to make it more difficult for American companies to compete and American workers to compete? That is the more difficult part. My understanding is the negotiations went well last week here in Washington. I did speak with Bob Lighthizer last night, who is the U.S. Trade Representative. He’s focused on this like a laser. As you know, March 1st is approaching quickly. If there is not something done before that, then tariffs will go up on the Chinese imports to the United States. My hope is that we can resolve these issues. I see some hopeful signs but I do think it has to involve more than just buying more because ultimately it’s the structural changes that are destroying our economy more.”

Here is the video: 

 Portman also highlighted his legislation to permanently end government shutdowns.

Earlier this year, for the fifth time, Portman introduced the End Government Shutdowns Act to permanently prevent the federal government from shutting down, ensuring that government services aren’t disrupted and protecting taxpayers who must bear the resulting cost.

The bill now has 33 cosponsors. He also urged his colleagues to support the president’s border security proposal, which draws upon the top 10 priorities of the Border Security Improvement Plan outlined by the government’s border security experts.

Here are more excerpts from his interview:


“Government shutdowns are bad for everybody and we just went through the longest one in the history of our country and I think coming out of it, Republicans and Democrats alike are saying, why did we do this? It provides no leverage, it hurts the economy, it hurts the families of federal employees who aren’t getting paychecks. A lot of people are furloughed and yet they get paychecks after the fact for not having worked, it makes no sense for taxpayers. The taxpayers always come out at the end, paying more not less for government. My hope is we will avoid a shutdown. I’ve actually got legislation now, as you know we’re working on, to stop government shutdowns in the future. We have 33 members of the U.S. Senate on our bill already. People don’t want another shutdown.”


“On the border, I thought the president did a good job of talking about the problems at the border, what I would consider a crisis at the border, because of the immigration issue but also because of the drug issue. We are getting hit hard in Ohio and other states by the crystal meth, heroin, and cocaine coming across our southern border and also the trafficking that he talked about. In terms of the solution, I think the president’s plan is better than he described. In other words, I think it does what many Democrats are asking for, which is it relies on the experts along the border to an evidenced-based approach, to say what kind of structures are going to be where. It’s 234 miles that he’s proposing in addition to what’s already been built from other administrations and other Congresses have voted for this, Democrats and Republican alike.

“The 234 miles is in a 2,000-mile border and it’s going to be in places where the experts have said it’s needed based on the top 10 priorities of a plan that border patrol put out. If he had explained it that way, I think maybe he would have gotten few more Democrats nodding their heads, saying, ‘that makes sense,’ because that’s at least what most of them are talking about, which is not having politicians in Washington make these decisions, but allowing experts on the border to do so. I think everybody agrees that we need more technology, more screening at ports of entry, we need to help in terms of the humanitarian crisis on the border. My hope is we can come up with something in the next nine or 10 days here to avoid a government shutdown and actually improve conditions at the border.”


Sens. Brown, Portman introduce bill to spur investment in new energy technology

Also Wednesday, Portman and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) introduced bipartisan legislation to spur investment in an innovative new energy technology and support jobs in Ohio. The bill would benefit companies such as Sunpower Inc., located in Athens, which has developed a promising electric power generation technology – the high-efficiency linear generator.

The senators’ bill would provide parity to these companies by allowing them to access an investment tax credit that will help them scale their product to market.

“New energy technology keeps the U.S. competitive and helps reduce energy costs for consumers. That’s why we should be making it easier for companies with promising ideas to get them to market,” Brown said. “The investment tax credit would give Sunpower and other companies the opportunity to take this technology mainstream and support jobs in southeast Ohio.”

“Linear generators are exactly the type of innovative technology that can help lower utility bills for homeowners and businesses in Ohio and throughout the U.S.,” Portman said. “Yet, this technology is at a disadvantage because of inconsistencies between the tax code and the practical, technical definitions for fuel cell technology. This legislation simply levels the playing field for Sunpower and other companies, making their linear generators competitive enough to fully enter the market during the phaseout of the existing investment tax credit.”

Sunpower is one of a number of companies that have invested in the research and development (R&D) to fully develop linear generation, a form of onsite power generation that can produce fuel from any sources including: fossil fuels, natural gas, biomass, solar or wind energy. The technology is ready to enter the market, but is not eligible for the tax incentives available to other forms of fuel cell technology that could help it reach its full potential.

Linear generation is not eligible for an investment tax credit because it does not meet the existing definition for qualified fuel cell property in the tax code. This puts companies at a competitive disadvantage and makes it tough to compete with similarly priced options. It is a neutral platform that can produce energy from any source, rather than a renewable or traditional fossil fuel source, and a tax credit would help it gain foothold in the market.

Brown and Portman are both members of the Senate Finance Committee and have worked to boost tax incentives and credits for Ohio businesses so they can boost R&D and get new products and ideas to market.

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