In an interview with Bloomberg’s Markets: America this morning, Senator Portman discussed improving trade relations with China by increasing direct talks between our two countries. Portman also encouraged improving or increasing sanctions on Russia to put additional pressure on the country to change its behavior, including reversing course on its illegal annexation of Crimea and ending hostilities on the Eastern border of Ukraine. He also noted that Congress and social media platforms need to do more to protect America from Russia meddling in our midterm elections.                                                                              

Excerpts of his interview can be found below and a video can be found here:

 

 

PORTMAN ON TRADE WITH CHINA: 

“I am pleased with what I have heard about the fact we are talking again. I think we have to be talking to China directly in order to get a resolution to the issue. Having this tariff escalation is not good for us. I cannot imagine it is good for China. Yesterday, I had a constituent come in my office who makes a finished product here in the United States with the raw material from China. They are now saying that because of the tariffs, the finished product will now come from China, which, by the way, does not have a tariff on it, while the raw material does. There are lots of administrative issues that are rising up in Ohio, not just higher tariffs but companies that are literally saying they cannot compete so long as we don’t resolve the tariff issue. We need to resolve it. On the other hand, China is not playing by the rules. I applaud the administration for calling that out and for using Section 301. Especially on intellectual property, but it’s more than that. 

“There are structural reforms that are needed in terms of the ability of a U.S. company to do business in China. That’s not necessarily an intellectual property issue, but it is a joint venture requirement that, for many sensitive industries particularly, you have to have a Chinese partner that has the majority of the shares. We don’t require that here. That’s a question of reciprocity. The taking of intellectual property, including manufacturing processes allows them to leapfrog us, that’s not fair. There are things we do need to do in order to change the trade relationship in a structural way. I’m really glad these talks are getting under way again because what we were seeing was escalating tariff on both sides and no discussion. So, we need to resolve these issues and the way to do that is through talks.” 

PORTMAN ON ADMINISTRATION’S FARM AID PACKAGE: 

“We don’t know the details of it, who’s going to get it and how it’s going to be distributed. I will say, having been with a bunch of farmers last weekend, I’ll be back in Ohio again this weekend, people want trade.  They don’t want aid, as they say. Trade not aid, and what that means is, farmers aren’t looking for a handout, they’re looking for the ability to sell their products overseas. Ultimately, the objective, I hope, of these China discussions is to open markets more. China does buy a lot of soybeans from Ohio, and it’s our number one market, and we want to get it back. By not having that market, prices are depressed, but, on the other hand, a lot of other products are not getting into China the way China has access to our market. Again, questions of reciprocity, leveling that playing field, not manipulating their currency. One thing that China has been doing over the past decades has been lowering the value of their currency to make their exports more competitive here in the United States and make our imports into China more expensive. That’s not fair either.” 

PORTMAN ON OPENING MARKETS TO THE EU: 

“Well, it’s good to open markets in the EU, no questions about it. The comments from the EU after the discussions last week with President Juncker were not encouraging because they were saying that agriculture may not be a significant part of the talks, and it should be. The EU has a number of protectionist measures on agricultural products, most of them are not tariffs. They are what we call non-tariff barriers. Everything from beef and beef hormones to poultry and how it’s processed, to corn and soybeans and GMOs are effectively kept out of the European market using sanitary, phytosanitary standards that are really another form of protectionism in my view. So, yes we should be opening up the European markets for sure, and by the way, it would be very good for Europe to have access to some of our agricultural products to lower their costs of living, and it would be a win-win, I think, for both sides.” 

PORTMAN ON ITALY’S SANCTIONS ON RUSSIA: 

“I was very encouraged to see that, and I’m glad the prime minister made that point because I think Italy has been one of those countries that some have been concerned about and that there might be an EU consensus that could be shattered by the Italians joining some other countries and ending the sanctions.” 

PORTMAN ON INCREASING SANCTIONS ON RUSSIA: 

“Obviously, we need to do more—what we’re doing isn’t working—or do what we’re doing more effectively, targeted better.  Russia is still violating the rules, they refuse to deal with Crimea, which they illegally annexed. They continue on the Eastern border of Ukraine to foment a hot conflict that is killing Ukrainian soldiers on Ukrainian soil. Russians are actively involved, we know that now. They continue to meddle in elections, not just our elections but all over Eastern and Central Europe.” 

PORTMAN ON PROTECTING MIDTERM ELECTIONS FROM RUSSIAN MEDDLING: 

We need to do more. Congress has appropriated an unprecedented amount of money, $380 million, to help the states to be able to be better prepared to deal with it and that’s important.  But it goes beyond just the state boards of elections. We need to be sure that we are pushing back against the propaganda, the disinformation. There is a group at the State Department called the Global Engagement Center, the GEC, which is now up and running. This is legislation that a Democrat and I have been pushing the last few years. I commend Secretary Pompeo because he’s actually using this tool.  The idea there is to push back against the disinformation and that should help in our elections. The actual fake news, including in these fledgling democracies in Central and Eastern Europe—not just Ukraine, but all across Eastern Europe and Central Europe even. Obviously, they’ve tried to affect the elections in places like France, Germany, and the U.K., so we need to help push back against that in an effective way.” 

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