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An old China hand draws fire on imports

On a day when Sen. Charles E. Schumer hoped he would be drawing universal praise, the New York Democrat drew some skepticism, and worse, from some Upstate manufacturers for his work on trade and China.

The Senate Finance Committee, of which he is a member, passed on Thursday by a vote of 20-1 a bill shaped to let the president exact penalties on Chinese exports for that country's undervaluing its currency.

Schumer sponsored the bill. For years, he had been the leading Democratic critic of the way the Communist regime fixes its currency to give its exports a 40 percent price advantage over American-made products.

But since Schumer began his efforts in 2003, the ground has shifted. Some trade associations and union leaders became uneasy when Schumer kept withdrawing similar bills based on promises -- eventually unfulfilled -- by the Bush administration that it would get China to stop tuning its currency.

November's elections sent here freshmen who wanted tougher trade bills than Schumer's -- as China's exports squeezed out more U.S. workers.

One of these is Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. Brown's bill, also backed by Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Jim Bunning, R-Ky., would let an aggrieved factory owner file a complaint against any country found to be massaging its currency, and impose countervailing duties.

Schumer's bill in essence still leaves fairness enforcement up to the president. No president in history has wielded the full power of our trade laws against an unfair exporter.

The sales director of Buffalo's Curtis Screw Co., John Hoskins Jr., prefers the Bunning-Stabenow-Brown bill to Schumer's. And he is uneasy about Schumer.

"Schumer is in an impossible position," Hoskins said. "He has this upstate constituency of manufacturers and workers, and then he represents Wall Street."

"His bill has no teeth," Hoskins said. "I think he is conflicted on this issue between Upstate" and Manhattan, whose most influential figures are globalists getting rich on foreign trade.

Curtis Screw employs 240 in Buffalo and another 160 nationally. Brian O'Shaughnessy, chief executive officer of Revere Copper Products in Rome, N.Y., is harsher on Schumer. He told me "American manufacturers are up in
arms over Chuck Schumer's betrayal. They are outraged."

O'Shaughnessy said Schumer's office falsely claimed that the Bunning bill, S. 796, violated U.S. commitments under the World Trade Organization. "Three highly reputable law firms say it doesn't," O'Shaughnessy said.

"We sent word of these legal findings to Sen. Schumer," O'Shaughnessy said. "We heard nothing back."

"I am making a public appeal to Senator Schumer," O'Shaughnessy said in Senate testimony last week. "Now is the time to support effective legislation for your Main Street, upstate constituency, which is in tatters. (Your) bill represents manufacturing workers but they are located in China, not in the USA."

Schumer responded that these criticisms are unfounded and unfair, particularly in view of his four years' efforts to bring China's actions into the light.

He said the Manufacturers' Association of Central New York, of which Revere is a member, endorses his bill. Moments later, Randy Wolken, president of the association, called to say Schumer's "is a great bill." Wolken said O'Shaughnessy does not speak for the association.

But to satisfy critics, Schumer said he would vote for the Bunning bill, S. 796, when it came to a vote in the Banking Committee, of which he is also a member. But he is not a cosponsor.

Hoskins commented he was glad of Schumer's stated support for S. 796. "It is better to have him with us, than against us."

e-mail: dturner@buffnews.com

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