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Democrats Tee Up ‘Better Deal’ Trade Pitch

Proposal includes ‘shame’ list for outsourcers

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer has announced a hold on two Commerce Department nominees. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer has announced a hold on two Commerce Department nominees. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democrats want to set up a new organization to review the effects of foreign purchases of U.S. companies for economic consequences.

The so-called American Jobs Security Council would operate similar to the existing Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which makes headlines occasionally when it intervenes in foreign efforts to invest in U.S. interests because of national security concerns.

It’s one of the key tenets of the trade piece of the Democrats’ “Better Deal” agenda that they began to roll out last week in Virginia. The trade components are expected to be detailed Wednesday on Capitol Hill.

The particular focus would be on companies and investors with significant ties to foreign governments.

“For example, the Council would have the authority to block the pending purchase of the Chicago Stock Exchange and Aleris Aluminum to Chinese firms with ties to the Chinese government,” reads a summary obtained by Roll Call.

The Democrats also have goals for a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, including a familiar push for a more balanced policy among the three countries involved and support for better wages for American workers.

The summary says the Democratic vision of NAFTA must “Exclude provisions that infringe upon U.S. laws and regulations that protect U.S. workers, consumers and small businesses. This includes laws protecting workers health and safety, Wall Street reform laws protecting U.S. consumers from unfair practices, laws protecting U.S. business from unfair trade practices like dumping and laws protecting the environment and addressing climate change.”

Other provisions would strengthen Buy America standards to all federal projects by eliminating loopholes and direct the Labor Department to set up a “shame list” for companies engaged in outsourcing.

The so-called shame list would then be used to give negative preferences in federal contracting.

“The proposal would require companies that handle sensitive U.S. consumer data abroad, like call centers, to disclose to consumers what country they are physically located in and the level of data protection in that country,” the summary states.

And, in no surprise for any trade policy rollout involving Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, the package of “Better Deal” proposals includes another effort to target currency manipulation by foreign governments like China. The New York Democrat has long campaigned for the executive branch to take action against Chinese currency manipulation against Democratic and Republican presidents.

“When a country manipulates it currency, one direct impact is that it makes their exports to the U.S. artificially cheaper, and makes U.S. exports to that country artificially more expensive,” the draft summary states. “This gives foreign companies an advantage that acts just like a subsidy.”