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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) railed against the Senate approving an amendment that would lower tariffs on Chinese products in a bill meant to help improve American competitiveness against China.
The Senate voted 91-4 to approve Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Ron Wyden’s (D-OR) amendment to the Endless Frontier Act. Only Sens. Rubio, Josh Hawley (R-MO), Tom Cotton (R-AR), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) voted against the proposal.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) sponsored the legislation as part of a strategy for America to become more competitive against China in artificial intelligence, high-end computing, and advanced manufacturing.
The Wyden-Crapo amendment would remove tariffs on personal protective equipment (PPE), as American manufacturers have made significant investments to help create PPE during the coronavirus pandemic. The amendment would also reauthorize the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB), which would unilaterally reduce tariffs on thousands of Chinese products.
Rubio said in a statement after the vote:
It is critical that our legislative effort to compete with China doesn’t inadvertently end up benefiting the Chinese Communist Party. Unfortunately, like far too many components of this package, this amendment fails to meet that bar. If the stated purpose of the bill before us is to make our nation more competitive, especially in light of our reliance on China for basic products, including personal protective equipment, it makes no sense to support a provision that cuts tariffs on products made in China.
The over 280-page amendment also contains provisions that might aid big tech companies.
Title 1, Subtitle B: Addressing Censorship and Barriers to Digital Trade section of the amendment requires the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to maintain a list of countries that disrupt digital trade and “coerced censorship,” deny market access to American tech companies, designates an official to monitor those countries, and urges the USTR to negotiate trade agreements to facilitate greater market access for American technology companies.
The USTR could use this authority to label countries, such as Poland and Hungary, that have enacted restrictions on big tech companies to push for trade restrictions against those countries. This also could distract from the USTR’s mission to go after potential unfair Chinese trade practices by advancing big tech’s interests abroad.
Wyden said on the Senate floor ahead of the amendment vote that the bipartisan compromise on their proposal shows that the “Senate is going to come together on the urgency of outcompeting China.”
Rubio told Breitbart News’s Matthew Boyle in an exclusive interview last week that the Endless Frontier Act would not enact “safeguards” to protect American research and development.
In response to the amendment passing, Rubio, the Senate Intelligence Committee vice chairman, asked why senators approved a motion to reduce tariffs that would benefit Chinese companies.
He asked rhetorically:
The ‘China bill’ now reduces tariffs on hundreds of products made in #China. Why would we cut tariffs on China in a bill to improve American’s ability to compete with China? And only @[email protected]@BernieSanders and I voted against it. #Strangebedfellows.