Posts from Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

Congress to Examine the Health and Safety Risks of China’s “Grip” on Medicine

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch Digital Media Director, Alliance for American Manufacturing

A little over a year ago, AAM President Scott Paul chatted with health care expert Rosemary Gibson for an episode of The Manufacturing Report podcast. Gibson had just co-authored a new book examining an overlooked part of America’s trade relationship with China.

The book’s title says it all. In “China Rx: Exposing the Risks of America’s Dependence on China for Medicine,” Gibson and co-author Janardan Prasad Singh outline how China now dominates pharmaceutical manufacturing — and why that is such a big problem for the United States.

Along with making a significant amount of medication, China also has a virtual monopoly on many of the essential ingredients that go into the pharmaceuticals that Americans depend on, including everything from over-the-counter vitamins to cancer meds to almost every antibiotic and blood pressure medication.

China’s dominance of the pharmaceutical supply chain means it has the power to cut off access to many of the medications Americans need to, um, live.

Think tariffs on cotton sweaters and bed linens are bad? Think about what would happen If China decided to cut off our medicine.

Pharmacy shelves would sit empty. Hospitals would close. People would die.

“Children and adults with cancer will suffer without vital medicines,” Gibson recently told the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. “For people on kidney dialysis, treatment would cease, a veritable death sentence.”

It’s all very scary stuff. Keep you awake at night kind of stuff.

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China’s Government-Owned CRRC Just Bought a German Locomotives Factory

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch Digital Media Director, Alliance for American Manufacturing

An interesting little story from Europe popped up in our news alerts on Tuesday morning.

It seems that Vossloh, a German rail technology company, is divesting its locomotives business so it can focus on rail infrastructure.

Normally, we here at the Alliance for American Manufacturing wouldn’t pay much attention to the business dealings of a German manufacturer like Vossloh. But what caught our eye was who ended up buying Vossloh’s locomotives unit: China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation Ltd (CRRC).

Nikkei Asian Review reports:

“CRRC, the Chinese state company that is the world’s largest train maker, is set to gain a key foothold in Europe by acquiring its first factory on the continent… Vossloh announced Monday that it would sell a locomotive factory it opened last year to CRRC Zhuzhou Locomotive, a subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed CRRC.”

If you aren't familar with CRRC, it is a massive Chinese government-owned conglomerate with deep ties to the Chinese communist party. CRRC is a key player in the government’s “Made in China 2025” initiative, in which China is aiming to dominate sectors of the global industrial economy, including rail manufacturing.

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Military Leaders: Ban Buses & Rail Cars from Chinese State-Owned or Controlled Firms

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch Digital Media Director, Alliance for American Manufacturing

We’ve been sounding the alarm about the risks that come with allowing Chinese government-owned or controlled companies to build U.S. transit systems like rail cars and buses (and with U.S. taxpayer dollars, natch). 

But hey, don’t take it from us. How about you take the word of four Admirals? And 10 Generals? Oh, and also a former Secretary of the Navy?

Fifteen military leaders wrote to the House and Senate armed services committees this week to urge Members to back legislation to ban companies owned or controlled by the Chinese government from building taxpayer-funded rail cars or buses.

The leaders are particularly concerned about China’s growing dominance in the electric vehicle (EV) sector, writing that China “seeks to gain strategic advantages… by providing aggressive government subsidies to Chinese corporations to lower prices to win business, undermining principles of fair competition and competitive markets.”

They continue:

“If China captures the EV market, the United States’ opportunity to enhance energy security by divorcing itself from an unstable global market merely swaps our reliance on one volatile oil market for a dependence on Beijing for our EVs. Moreover, the infiltration of Chinese technology into the EV sector raises substantial cybersecurity risks that may be difficult to assess and address.”

There’s growing concern on Capitol Hill about China’s role in building U.S. transit, and legislation included in the Defense authorization bill (NDAA) passed by both the Senate and the House before the August recess aims to tackle it.

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Let’s Get This Legislation Over the Finish Line

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch Digital Media Director, Alliance for American Manufacturing

Congress is out of session for the August recess, which means that the nation’s legislative business is on hold for a few weeks.

But Members have a packed agenda waiting for them when they return in the fall, including finalizing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It’s a massive bill that authorizes the Defense Department, and included in this year’s version is language that could potentially impact hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs and our national security.

No pressure, Congress.

As we’ve outlined before, there are major security and economic concerns about China’s role in building U.S. transit. The Senate moved to address these threats when it passed its version of the NDAA by including language to ban Chinese government-owned or controlled companies from using U.S. taxpayer dollars to build U.S. rail cars and buses.

When the House passed its version, however, the ban only applied to rail.

The reason? Folks like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) support bus maker Build Your Dreams (BYD) – a company that maintains strong ties to China’s government (and has ambitious plans to dominate the global auto market, which threatens hundreds of thousandsU.S. jobs).

Now the legislation is headed to conference, and negotiators from the Senate and the House will determine whether to move forward with the Senate version or the House version. Or, they could very well scrap the language all together in order to ensure passage of the NDAA.

That’s what happened earlier this year, in fact, when similar language was included as part of the fiscal 2019 omnibus spending bill (a.k.a., the legislation that avoided another government shutdown). Because of the complaints of McCarthy, the provision was scrapped and not included as part of the final legislation.

It’s important that negotiators get it right this time.

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What is Currency Manipulation? Why is Trump Saying China Does It? Why Does This Matter?

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch Digital Media Director, Alliance for American Manufacturing

The United States and China have been at odds over trade for quite some time now, but things usually have stayed polite. Tariffs were issued, threats were leveled, but everybody still made a big point to project calm (well, relative to this administration, anyway). President Trump even took pains to talk about how he and President Xi Jinping were totally good friends!

Well, that’s over.

After U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin returned from recent China trade talks empty-handed, Trump pushed things up a level, saying he would place tariffs on all Chinese imports. 

Then after China responded by allowing its currency to drop in value, the Treasury Department said it is naming China a currency manipulator.

If you believe some of the pundits out there, this is really bad — nay, out of control! And it’s pretty serious — the United States hardly ever names a country a currency manipulator. The last time was… um, China, in the early 1990s.

But you might be wondering… what is currency manipulation? What does it mean?

Let’s break it down.

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Biden’s Record Was in the Spotlight During the Second Democratic Debate, Including on Trade

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch Digital Media Director, Alliance for American Manufacturing

Well, we made it.

The second night of the second Democratic presidential debates is in the books, and some key manufacturing issues did make it into the spotlight on Wednesday night in Detroit, including trade.

Although this go-around lacked some of the passion featured on the first night — Sens. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) are the two candidates who have made trade one of their top issues, after all — nearly everybody did mention it at some point. 

But it was frontrunner Joe Biden who got the most attention. The former vice president and longtime senator has the most substantial policy record of anybody in the race, and his rivals on Wednesday didn't hesitate to attack him on it on all fronts, including trade. And Biden made news, announcing he would "renegotiate" the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, which President Trump pulled the United States out of on his first day in office. You'll recall, of course, that the TPP was negotiated under the Obama administration — which was when Biden served as vice president. So, Biden's flip-flop is a big f—ing deal.

Read on for more on what Biden said about trade and other manufacturing issues, as well as the remarks from all the other candidates who took part in Wednesday's debate.

Sen. Michael Bennet (Colo.): Moderator Dana Bash asked the Centennial State senator about technology's role in job displacement, and Bennet responded that the real issue is "how are we going to remain competitive? It's not just about trade... it's about whether we're going to invest in this country anymore." He then argued against the recent tax cuts and trillions of dollars spent in the Middle East, noting that "for all the money I've just described, we could have fixed every road and bridge in this country. We could have fixed every airport... We could have fixed not just Flint, but every water system in this country."

Former Vice President Joe Biden: On trade, Biden's record is mixed. As former President Barack Obama's vice president, he was a vocal supporter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), but on Wednesday he said the deal must be renegotiated. And in 1993, he voted for the passage of NAFTA. But Wednesday night, Biden dodged a question about the Trump administration's efforts toward a NAFTA renegotiation, and backtracked on his earlier advocacy for the TPP. That flip-flopping aside, it is clear Biden thinks the United States should remain open to trade.

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Detroit Provides the Right Backdrop for 2020 Democratic Candidates to Talk Manufacturing

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch Digital Media Director, Alliance for American Manufacturing

We have a few ideas for what moderators should ask the candidates during this week's debates.

The second round of the 2020 Democratic presidential debates begin on Tuesday night in Detroit, and it’s make or break time for many of the candidates.

We’re looking at you, Bill de Blasio.

You might remember that last time around, trade and manufacturing didn’t come up all that much. On night two, some of the candidates shared their thoughts on standing up to China, and Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan talked about his ideas for factory job growth, but that’s about it.

While we’re sure there will be other timely topics to discuss this time around, we have a sneaking suspicion that trade and manufacturing will come up a bit more. Major trade talks between the U.S. and China are happening in Shanghai this week, after all, and so we can see moderators Dana Bash, Don Lemon and Jake Tapper offering a question or two on that.

But these debates are also happening in Detroit, a city that knows firsthand the devastation of unbalanced trade — along with the benefits that manufacturing still can create.

You might not call it a comeback, but it is clear that the Motor City is in the midst of a rebirth. Investment is pouring in, helping to revitalize downtown. Outside the city’s center, some of the Old Victorians that sat dilapidated for decades are getting new life.

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How Congress Can Address Climate Change, Create Jobs and Support U.S. Manufacturers

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch Digital Media Director, Alliance for American Manufacturing

The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis – a special Congressional panel established in 2019 with the mandate of exploring ways to address climate change – held a hearing on Tuesday that caught our eye.

Now, astute readers of this blog know that the Alliance for American Manufacturing is supportive of efforts to clean up our environment.

We think manufacturers can and should do their part to lower greenhouse gas emissions, and thankfully many already are stepping up to the plate. And we’ve also sounded the alarm about the link between trade and climate change, pointing out that when we depend countries like China for products big and small, we essentially are importing our pollution.

But anyway, back to the hearing, which examined how heavy-duty public transportation impacts the environment.

We were excited to see that Ryan Popple, the president and CEO of zero-emission battery-electric bus maker Proterra, Inc., was among the panelists. Founded in Colorado in 2004, Proterra is now headquartered in Silicon Valley and manufactures its buses at factories in the City of Industry, Calif., and Greenville, S.C. Proterra employs more than 500 people, and has made buses for communities in 36 states, the District of Columbia and even two Canadian provinces.

Proterra is an example of an American manufacturer that is tackling a problem head-on, working to reduce carbon emissions while also supporting job growth and local economic development. But that’s not what got our attention.

What did were the opening remarks from ranking member Garrett Graves. The Louisiana Republican echoed Chair Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), who said America “can lead the world with well-paying jobs as we transition to clean energy.”

And Graves also pointed out what we shouldn’t be doing:

“We had hearings in the transportation committee, where I also serve, where BYD, a Chinese bus manufacturer, was coming in -- and it appears to be a state-owned enterprise -- coming in and knocking out domestic bus manufacturers, and being subsidized by the Chinese government. Coming in and assembling buses in California, in some of our own communities, only to undercut price, knock out domestic production of those same types of vehicles, therefore giving China an advantage.”

AAM President Scott Paul testified at that hearing, and he noted that BYD’s business model is to assemble its buses in the United States, but heavily rely on imported parts and components. (Compare that to Proterra, which sources more than 75 percent of its materials in the United States, supporting jobs up and down the transportation supply chain.)

BYD now has set its sights on dominating world auto sales by 2025, which as Scott Paul noted “would threaten over 5,600 parts suppliers spread across the nation, employing 871,000 workers, the very heart of American Manufacturing.”

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House Acts to Block Federal Funding for Rail Cars Built by Chinese State-Owned Companies

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch Digital Media Director, Alliance for American Manufacturing

A big step in the right direction.

The House of Representatives on Friday passed the annual spending bill for the Defense Department, and the legislation included language to block federal transit dollars from being spent on electric rail cars made by Chinese state-owned companies.

The provision included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed by the House prohibits federal tax dollars from being used to award a contract or subcontract for the procurement of rail cars to be used in public transportation by state-owned or controlled companies from non-market economies like China.  

Although the NDAA passed on party lines, this specific legislation enjoyed bipartisan support, as it was originally sponsored by Reps. Harley Rouda (D-Calif.), Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Kay Granger (R-Texas), Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Randy Weber (R-Texas) and John Garamendi (D-Calif.).

The NDAA now heads to conference with the Senate, which previously passed its version of the defense authorization bill that included a similar provision that applied to both rail and buses. Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) served as the original sponsors of the Transit Infrastructure Vehicle Security Act in that chamber.

Here at the Alliance for American Manufacturing, we encourage lawmakers to put forth a final NDAA conference report that includes the Senate version of this provision, as it applies to both types of public transit.

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Why Trump’s Reversal on Huawei is a Bad Deal

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch Digital Media Director, Alliance for American Manufacturing

President Trump is back from his big weekend trip to the G-20 summit, where he met with world leaders and even made a quick stop in North Korea!

There’s no shortage of headlines from Trump’s trip, and there’s certainly a lot to unpack. But some Members of Congress are homing in on one in particular: Trump’s announcement that he will loosen restrictions on U.S. companies doing business with Chinese technology giant Huawei.

Schumer and Rubio — not a couple of guys you expect hang out much — aren’t alone in their criticism. A growing list of Republicans are speaking out against Trump’s decision, as are 2020 Democratic presidential contenders like Tim Ryan.

Political pundits don’t seem all that impressed, either. Over at Bloomberg, technology columnist Tim Culpan wrote that “as far as deals go, this is set to be one of Trump’s worst.”

Oof. Apparently feeling the heat, Trump administration officials are already scrambling to downplay Trump’s decision, with White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow saying that the easing of restrictions on Huawei will be for “general merchandise, not national security sensitive” products like chips and software.

There’s a lot of political posturing happening here, and if you aren’t completely tuned into this ongoing saga, you might be justifiably lost. Let’s break things down.

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Union Matters

An Invitation to Sunny Miami. What Could Be Bad?

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

If a billionaire “invites” you somewhere, you’d better go. Or be prepared to suffer the consequences. This past May, hedge fund kingpin Carl Icahn announced in a letter to his New York-based staff of about 50 that he would be moving his business operations to Florida. But the 83-year-old Icahn assured his staffers they had no reason to worry: “My employees have always been very important to the company, so I’d like to invite you all to join me in Miami.” Those who go south, his letter added, would get a $50,000 relocation benefit “once you have established your permanent residence in Florida.” Those who stay put, the letter continued, can file for state unemployment benefits, a $450 weekly maximum that “you can receive for a total of 26 weeks.” What about severance from Icahn Enterprises? The New York Post reported last week that the two dozen employees who have chosen not to uproot their families and follow Icahn to Florida “will be let go without any severance” when the billionaire shutters his New York offices this coming March. Bloomberg currently puts Carl Icahn’s net worth at $20.5 billion.

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Health Care Should Not Be A Bargaining Weapon

Health Care Should Not Be A Bargaining Weapon