On Tuesday January 29, 2019, WITA hosted its inaugural Washington International Trade Conference (WITC). At the event, WITA hosted an armchair discussion between Representative Kevin Brady and Ambassador Susan Schwab.
Summary: Introduction and Armchair Discussion with Rep. Kevin Brady
By Nikhil Raj
On Tuesday January 29, 2019, WITA hosted its inaugural Washington International Trade Conference (WITC). To kick off the event, WITA hosted an armchair discussion between Representative Kevin Brady and Ambassador Susan Schwab. Representative Brady currently sits as the Ranking Member of the influential House Ways and Means Committee, while Ambassador Schwab served as the United States Trade Representative under the Bush Administration from 2006-2009.
During the approximately 25 minute conversation between the two, several key topics in the trade world were discussed, including the recently agreed upon USMCA deal, US-China negotiations, and the future of US-EU trade relations.
Representative Brady was forceful in his defense of USMCA, saying that he believed it should be approved, citing its improvements in digital trade, customs, and locking in reforms on telecoms compared to its predecessor, NAFTA. That said, he was cleareyed about the fact that it would be a turbulent road to reaching that approval. In particular, he acknowledged that many Democrats were adamant about higher enforcement mechanisms in the deal for labor standards. Brady also mentioned that he had begun the process of briefing other members of Congress about what the deal entails alongside Vern Buchanan, who sits as the lead Republican on the Subcommittee on Trade.
Brady wondered aloud what Democrat demands would look like, while also making it clear that most members on either side of the aisle were ambivalent about moving forward with the deal while steel and aluminum tariffs on Mexico and Canada are ongoing. In his view, the USMCA deal was strong enough to stand by itself without any separate tariffs or quotas.
Rep. Brady was also broadly supportive of the President’s focus on challenging China on trade issues. Referencing the “Made in China 2025” strategic plan that the Chinese government is undergoing, he believed that structural reforms had to be made in the US-China relationship. While he was critical of China’s trading habits, he did not the importance of product exclusion within the larger framework of a trade deal in order to cause as little pain as possible within the global economic outlook. The main objective, he said, is to minimize the damage caused by an extended trade war while also accomplishing measurable reforms.
The conversation then switched to Europe, and the future of a potential US-EU trade deal. Brady was pleased to see President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker visit the White House and President Donald Trump, a man with whom he has had a sometimes contentious relationship. From a US standpoint, he believed a trade deal with Europe that didn’t include agriculture would not be an easy sale to the American public and members of Congress.
With regards to Brexit, and the ongoing political turmoil surrounding its terms in the United Kingdom, Rep. Brady made it clear that he wants to see an unconstrained trade relationship with one of the US’ closest allies no matter what happens. Finally, he touched on the future of the WTO, and expressed his support for working on tangible improvements.
Andrew Gelfuso, Vice President, Trade Center Management Associates
Kenneth Levinson, Executive Director, Washington International Trade Association
Laura Lane, President of Global Public Affairs, UPS
Ambassador Susan Schwab, Strategic Advisor, Mayer Brown
Representative Kevin Brady, Ranking Member, House Ways and Means Committee
To view more details about the event, visit the event page here.