Senate Passes Key Portman Priorities in U.S. Innovation and Competition Act

This week, the U.S. Senate passed the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, which will invest more than $100 billion of taxpayer funds to solidify the United States’ leadership in scientific and technological innovation critical to national security and economic competitiveness. Senator Portman, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, had a number of bills included in the package that will encourage investment in the United States, protect American research and intellectual property from global competitors, increase U.S. cyber defenses in the public and private sectors, strengthen America’s manufacturing industry and workforce, counter propaganda and disinformation from countries like China and Russia, and deploy economic crisis action teams to countries facing economic coercion. 

Senator Portman’s priorities which passed the Senate in the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act include: 

  • Safeguarding American Innovation Act, which will protect the more than $100 billion investment American research and IP made in the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act from global competitors, like China. Portman and Senator Tom Carper, as then-Chairman and Ranking Member of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), led a year-long investigation into this issue culminating in a bipartisan report and hearing that detailed how American taxpayers have been unwittingly funding the rise of China’s military and economy over the last two decades while federal agencies have done little to stop it. Starting in the late 1990s through its “talent recruitment programs,” China began recruiting U.S.-based scientists and researchers to transfer U.S. taxpayer-funded IP for China’s military and economic gain. This legislation will ensure that the federal government is taking decisive action to safeguard American innovation. 
  • Make PPE in America Act, which will strengthen efforts to onshore production of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the United States by requiring federal agencies to issue long-term contracts for American-made PPE. Reshoring production will ensure American workers, health care professionals, and more have the PPE they need as the economy continues to reopen. Domestic production of PPE supplies also will create American manufacturing jobs and ensure that America is better prepared for the next pandemic. 
  • BuyAmerican.gov Act, which will establish a centralized online hub to increase transparency and ensure federal agencies prioritize the purchase of American-made goods in compliance with existing law. Under current law, federal agencies may use domestic content waivers to Buy American laws to purchase goods or services from foreign companies only in certain circumstances: for example, when an American-made good is unavailable or will significantly increase the cost of a product. However, there is currently no easily accessible government-wide system tracking the use and abuse of these waivers by federal agencies. The bipartisan legislation will direct the General Services Administration to establish a central, publicly available website, at the link currently known as BuyAmerican.gov, to collect and display information about each requested waiver to Buy American laws. 
  • The Build America, Buy America Act, which will implement Buy America rules to all taxpayer-funded infrastructure and public works projects – ensuring that American taxpayer dollars are used to buy American-made iron, steel, and manufactured products for any federally funded infrastructure projects. 
  • The Cyber Response and Recovery Act, which will help improve the federal response to cyberattacks, like the recent attack against the Colonial Pipeline. The bill establishes a Cyber Response and Recovery Fund for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to provide direct support to public or private entities as they respond to and recover from significant cyberattacks and breaches, following a declaration of a significant incident by the Secretary of Homeland Security. 
  • Office of Manufacturing and Industrial Innovation Policy Act, which will establish an Office of Manufacturing and Industrial Innovation Policy (OMII) overseen by a Chief Manufacturing Officer (CMO) in the Executive Office of the President. This new office will help strengthen America’s manufacturing industry and workforce and improve global competitiveness following the coronavirus pandemic. It will also develop a long-term plan to ensure the growth and national security of the U.S. manufacturing industry and workforce and coordinate efforts to support manufacturing across the federal government, improve workforce development and job creation, and enhance research and development. 
  • World Trade Organization Resolution, which expresses support for U.S. leadership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) while also calling for reform to parts of the institution. The resolution describes the long history of productive American leadership at the WTO, as well as the ways in which the WTO has failed to address new trade barriers and market distortions by countries like China. 
  • Strengthening the Global Engagement Center, which authorizes $150 million in FY 2022 funding for the Global Engagement Center (GEC) in order to counter propaganda and disinformation from countries like China and Russia, as well as foreign non-state actors. This authorization more than doubles the amount Congress appropriated for the GEC in FY 2021. 
  • Countering China’s Belt and Road, which will create a pilot program to deploy economic crisis action teams to countries facing economic coercion, including threats from China. These teams of experts have the ability to review, at the invitation of U.S. allies and partners, contracts including those that are a part of China’s Belt and Road initiative. This is a powerful tool that empowers the United States to go on the offensive against the most destructive aspects of China’s economic practices. 
  • Restarting the Tariff Exclusion Process, which will require the United States Trade Representative to brief Congress on the findings of a forthcoming Government Accountability Office (GAO) study into the Section 301 exclusion process and detail how they are adopting GAO’s recommendations to improve the process. This comes nearly two months after Senators Portman and Carper, along with 38 other members of the Senate, sent a letter to United States Trade Representative Katherine C. Tai, asking her to restart the exclusion process for imports from China subject to tariffs under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. The Trump administration set up an exclusion process to help U.S. manufacturers and businesses receive relief from the tariffs when an imported good was not available outside of China, or when the tariffs caused severe economic harm to U.S. industry. Unfortunately, those exclusions expired at the end of 2020, and the Biden administration has not restarted a process for businesses to apply for new exclusions. 

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