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Washington — U.S. Sen. Gary Peters is introducing a bipartisan bill to force the U.S. Commerce Department to initiate trade enforcement actions on behalf of smaller industries in an effort to combat dumping of products at below-market prices by foreign makers.

The measure, which was co-authored by Peters and Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. and has the support of President Donald Trump, calls for the creation of a permanent task force at the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration that would investigate dumping and subsidies on imported goods.

Backers say dumping is an unfair trade practice that occurs when foreign companies intentionally lower their prices to make it harder for American businesses to compete with them. They say U.S. businesses are also at a disadvantage when it comes to subsidies that their international competition often receives from home countries.

Under the proposed legislation, known as the Self-Initiation Trade Enforcement Act, the new Commerce Department task force would independently research trade data and refer abuses for further investigation by the International Trade Administration. Peters and Burr said there would be an emphasis on cases impacting small and medium-sized businesses.

“Small and mid-sized businesses in Michigan and across the country are working hard to make great products for consumers, but they often face unfair competition from foreign companies that flood American markets with artificially cheaper goods,” Peters said in a statement.

“Smaller companies with limited resources may not have the ability to identify trade violations, or worse, they fear retaliation from governments in foreign markets where they sell their products,” Peters continued. “This bipartisan bill will ensure American manufacturers and agricultural producers can compete on a level playing field.”

Under current law, the Commerce Department can initiate trade investigations, but Peters and Burr said “the majority of their investigations begin only after companies or industry representatives lodge formal complaints.”

Trump signaled during a White House meeting Tuesday with senators on trade issues that he supports the proposed legislation from Peters and Burr.

Peters asked Trump during the meeting to take a look at allowing the Commerce Department to initiate trade enforcement actions for smaller industries.

“In Michigan, for example, we have cherries,” Peters said. “Right now, we’ve got the dumping of cherries that’s making it very difficult for our growers in Michigan. But they don’t have the resources to bring those kinds of enforcement actions.”

“You have my help,” Trump responded. “I think it’s a fantastic idea. Because you’re right – they can’t hire the lawyers, it’s too small. But it’s – you know, in a double way, it’s very, very big.”

Trump then turned to Ross, the U.S. Commerce Secretary, and asked: “Wilbur, are you working on that?” Ross responded: “Yes, sir.”

klaing@detroitnews.com

(202) 662-8735

Twitter: @Keith_Laing

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