Schumer Floor Remarks on Senator Reid’s Surgery, President Trump’s Reversal on Chinese Trade Policy, and Rising Gas Prices

May 14, 2018

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding Former Senator Harry Reid’s successful surgery, President Trump’s reversal on Chinese trade policy, and rising gas prices. Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here:

Madame President, I recently heard that my dear friend Harry Reid has just gotten out of an operation to treat pancreatic cancer. I’ve spoken to his family. It seems that everything went well with the operation. The doctors say pancreatic cancer is not a great thing, but given that the operation couldn’t have gone much better, we are all praying for Harry’s speedy recovery. Harry is a fighter – literally and figuratively – I know he is going to approach his recovery with the same energy and tenacity and resolve that defined his public life.

So, we all send our prayers to him, and we also wish a speedy recovery to the first lady, who underwent a medical procedure today as well.

Now, an area where the president and I have mostly agreed is trade with China. I’ve given him a pat on the back for his stance so far. I’ve praised the administration vocally and forcefully for their efforts to address China’s intellectual property theft and extortion, and their unwillingness to let our best products be sold in their country – in their huge market – unless we give them our family jewels – how we do things, how we invent things. So, the president was right, and so many of us breathed a sigh of relief when he started an investigation into China’s theft on our intellectual property. The administration was right to threaten tariffs and investment restrictions to get China to the negotiating table, and their reaction to what happened with the recent telecom company, ZTE, shows when you’re tough with China, they really react.

China is rapacious about trade, particularly about intellectual property. To gain access to China’s markets, American companies are forced by China’s government into deals where they must turn over their most valuable, job-creating intellectual property to Chinese competitors. China’s state-backed companies try to steal the intellectual property from American companies outright. It’s wrong, and it’s anathema to the American way.

Retired four-star general Keith Alexander has said that China’s theft of intellectual property has been “the greatest transfer of wealth in history.” That just eats at me. It eats at me, Madame President. That’s American jobs. That’s American wealth. American know-how and innovation, of which we’re all so proud being stolen – stolen, there is no other word - by China, and it hurts us.

One example that hits home to me: I was just in Albany this morning, and one of our biggest employers is GE, where they make steam turbines. GE – they employ thousands of people in good paying jobs, one of the few big manufacturing sites left in Schenectady, and they signed a few years back one of these 51-49s. China wouldn’t let them sell the turbines in China, it’s a huge market. So, they sign one of these things to make them in China, 51-49 with a Chinese company that clearly the government’s tentacles are in. It’s great for the GE CEO. I liked him, he was my friend, but I so objected to what he did here. GE made some good profits on those sales because they got an exclusive contract and the right to sell for a few years, but then China will have stolen the amazing GE technology that allows their turbines to be the best in the world, to spin fast without overheating, and those jobs are gone, and that story can be repeated over, and over, and over again. 

So I thought: good for President Trump for finally getting serious about this calamity. I noted that my views on China and how we view them economically are closer to President Trump’s than President Bush or Obama, both of whom I thought were far too soft. But now – disappointingly, and maybe not surprisingly - President Trump is backing off! Over the weekend, we saw two incredible examples of the president doing a 180 on China.

First, Axios reported the president is on the verge of a deal that would have China accelerate its purchases of U.S. goods in the name of “reducing our trade deficit” with China, in exchange for us dropping the 301 tariffs proposed to stop China from stealing our intellectual property specifically. And second – amazingly enough, when he finally did some strong action against China, his Commerce Department – the president backs off. He tweeted that he and President Xi are working together to “give massive Chinese phone company ZTE a way to get back into business, fast” because “too many jobs in China lost.” What about jobs in America, Mr. President? What about the millions of jobs because of what China has done?

The president was referring to the fact that ZTE has accepted a fine for selling its products in violations of US sanctions against Iran and North Korea, and could be further restricted by a pending FCC proposal to ban U.S. telecom companies that receive funds from purchasing mobile equipment or services from companies like ZTE. Why? Because ZTE poses a national security threat to U.S. communication networks. This president, who prides himself on keeping us secure is going to let ZTE continue to do this, despite what the experts say?

Why on earth would President Trump promise to help a Chinese telecom company that has flouted US sanctions and whose trade practices are a risk to our national security? The thing that will move China most is taking tough action against actors like ZTE. But even before it’s implemented, the president backs off.

And why on earth would President Trump retreat from cracking down on intellectual property theft – the thing China fears most, the thing that has hurt us the most, and will hurt us even more in the future losing millions, if not tens of millions, of American jobs – in exchange for a few purchases of US goods in the short term? That’s a bad, lopsided deal if there ever was one. It’d be like trading away your star player for the last-round draft pick. If President Trump makes that deal, President Xi of China will have made a fool of the president, and shown he does not know how to cut a deal.

President Trump bemoans “Too many jobs in China lost.” What about American jobs? What about job losses associated with theft of IP from China and ZTE in particular?

What happened to America first? Being soft on trade puts China first. That’s how the president campaigned, that’s a good part of how he got elected, but once again the president talks the talk but refuses, is unable is afraid to walk the walk, and once again a foreign leader could well be playing the president for a chump.

What happened to Make America Great Again? President Trump’s latest about-face on trade policy won’t make America great again; it will make China great again. The next generation of electric vehicles, telecom hardware, advanced aviation technology, and renewable energy should be made in America, not China. It won’t happen if we allow China to continue to extort and steal our intellectual property and know-how, if we allow China to sell goods here at will but not allow us to sell our best products over there. Walking away from the negotiating table with anything less than enforceable and verifiable commitments to protect our intellectual property would be a catastrophic failure, and again show that President Xi has clearly outplayed President Trump. I hope that doesn’t happen, I pray that doesn’t happen, because we care about jobs in America.

Finally, Madame President, on oil prices. Few things matter more to the average consumer than the price of a gallon of gasoline. When gas prices go through the roof, it eats away at a family’s income, leaving less to cover the cost of everything else: groceries, medicine, tuition, summer vacation.

Recent data suggests that gas prices are about to spike this summer, the result of actions (and inactions) of the Trump administration. As gas prices head towards $3 a gallon, the US Energy Information Administration estimates the average American family can expect to pay $200 more this summer’s driving season than last.

Part of the reason is that President Trump triggered greater uncertainty and increased instability into the Middle East when he pulled out of the Iran Deal, and is about to levy additional sanctions on the oil-producing nation. Another part of the reason is that OPEC has decided to cut oil production. President Trump has tweeted that OPEC’s decision “will not be accepted.” We’re waiting and seeing for some action that will help America’s motorists. 

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