On Hugh Hewitt Radio, Portman Discusses Facilitating Tariff Relief for Hand Sanitizer & Federal Response to Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic

April 6, 2020 | Portman Difference

This morning on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, Portman discussed his efforts to help Ohioans during this coronavirus epidemic.  For example, he discussed his successful effort to facilitate tariff relief for the Ohio-based company Gojo, which produces Purell, to pave the way for additional distribution of the product.  The tariff relief involves components used in the distribution of hand sanitizer, specifically pumphouses and e-collars. Pumphouses are the device in hand sanitizer dispensers that pump out the sanitizer and e-collars are the key on the bottles of hand sanitizer that ensure dispensers are fitted with the correct bottles. Gojo alerted Portman to the issue and Portman engaged with U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Bob Lighthizer directly to make the case for tariff relief. Portman announced on Saturday that the USTR had granted the tariff relief.

Portman also highlighted the importance of implementing the bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act before beginning negotiations on a phase four coronavirus package. The CARES Act is providing unprecedented economic and health care relief to ensure small businesses in Ohio get the support they need to keep folks on payroll during the ongoing coronavirus crisis. Portman emphasized the importance of accelerating the public health response, significantly expanding our testing capability, and developing a credible system of metrics to measure success in combating the coronavirus in order to know when it is safe to reopen the economy.

Excerpts of the interview can be found below and you can listen here.

PORTMAN ON WORKING WITH USTR TO FACILITATE INCREASED DISTRIBUTION OF HAND SANITIZER DURING CORONAVIRUS CRISIS:

“Well, as you know, we have tariffs in place against China, still. Some were removed during phase one, and some were not put in place that would have. But there’s still tariffs in place for a lot of products, including a 25 percent tariff for two items that the hand sanitizer company, Purell, was using. So they’ve got one product that goes into their little hand dispenser, you know, the one you’d have at your home, and another one that would go into a dispenser that you’d find, say, at an airport. And so they were paying an additional 25 percent. This means that that gets passed along to the consumer, and the prices were higher for Purell. It also, they said, had some impact on the supply, in other words, that they were having more difficulty getting it because of the 25 percent tariff. So we went to U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer. He understood immediately that this is a product that is part of responding to the coronavirus issue, so we worked through what’s called an exclusion, basically a waiver of that 25 percent. And you know, the idea is eventually, as you well know, Hugh, to bring this kind of production to America. But in the meantime, the Chinese have the patent on this particular part of this dispenser, and so we wanted to be sure that that wasn’t going to make it harder for us to respond to Coronavirus. And Purell is a great Ohio company. They’re running three shifts right now. You know, they’re just going full bore trying to produce more hand sanitizer.

“Yes, that was done yesterday. And so you know, that will help to have that cost a little bit lower for folks who can go to the store and get it. I will tell you, it’s tough to get it at stores in Ohio, because it’s so badly needed. And one thing we’re finding back here, Hugh, is that there’s some businesses that are deemed essential. And God love them, they’re in there working hard. You know, they’re using social distance. They’re using masks, in some cases. But they’ve also got to use hand sanitizer. And some of these businesses who’ve contacted me and said hey, Rob, I want to stay open, but I’ve got to have more hand sanitizer. So the Purell news is good. Also, the Proctor and Gamble company in Cincinnati, Ohio, is now making hand sanitizer in some of their facilities, including, as I understand it, a perfume factory that’s been converted to hand sanitizers. And they’re providing 55 gallon drums of this to FEMA to be able to get out to companies and to health care providers, you know, to the front line health care workers and others. So there’s a lot of innovation going on right now in Ohio. You’d be proud of our Ohio citizens and our Ohio companies stepping up.”

PORTMAN ON IMPLEMENTING THE CARES ACT BEFORE NEGOTIATING PHASE FOUR:

“Yes, I’m concerned that Speaker Pelosi has said publicly, and is working privately on phase four legislation already. And as you know, the person who has the pen tends to have an advantage. Back on the days when you negotiated, you probably still do some of this in your legal practice. You want to have the pen. And so we’ve got to be sure that we have our own ideas on the table. I do think that Speaker Pelosi is responding to pressure she’s getting from her membership, because as you know, phase three was largely a Senate product. But the fact is we’ve got to be sure we aren’t wasting money. I mean, we still have this debt and deficit. I know interest rates are very low, and that’s good right now to fund it. But we’ve got to be sure that we’re spending money properly. And I think phase four, right now, ought to be worked on. We don’t know exactly what’s going to be in it, though. Let’s let phase three first be implemented and see where the gaps are, because that’s the one thing we’re going to have to do is look at you know, what worked, what didn’t work. Fine tuning might be the minimum that we’ll have to do. We might have to change some things substantially if, as an example as you say, some money is going to the wrong places. But then second, by the time we get to phase four, Hugh, I’m hoping that we have the economy able to start to make a comeback, in other words that there will be better information as to how many new infections there are every day, how many hospitalizations, maybe some work on this antibody medication so that we have the ability to test people for antibodies and see how we can get the economy moving again. If that’s true, then it ought to be focused on real stimulus. And that means filling the gaps, but also getting this economy moving again, because it’s in freefall right now.”

PORTMAN ON WORKING AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL TO HELP OHIOANS DURING THE CORONAVIRUS CRISIS:

“I’m here working in Ohio. Today, I’ve got a live Facebook town hall. I’ve got two or three other videos that I’m doing, and then I’ve got five TV interviews with local, you know, TV here in Ohio to get the word out as to how people can take advantage of the new SBA program, you know, what’s happening in terms of the overall Coronavirus issue here in Ohio. And so we’re just trying to stay in touch with people as best we can to help them. And then second, I’m doing a lot with Ohio companies, as you indicated, whether it’s Purell or Battelle or Cardinal Health or Proctor and Gamble. We’ve got so many companies in Ohio that want to get engaged and involved and help more, and I’m trying to knock down some of the federal barriers for them to do that, and have been pretty successful in helping there. There are three innovative manufacturers as an example, right now, who want to help on ventilators. And these are small manufacturers who have a lot of expertise in manufacturing. They’ve brought in medical experts to help them on the ventilators. They want to help. And they’re not looking to make money, but they are looking to help, and that’s exciting, too. So I’m trying to be helpful.”

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