September 17, 2020

Van Hollen, Senate Democrats Unveil the America LEADS Act to Make Comprehensive Investments in American Workers, Competitiveness, Alliances, and Diplomacy to Confront the Rise of China

Package Includes Van Hollen’s Protecting American Intellectual Property Act and Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) joined Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in introducing the America Labor, Economic competitiveness, Alliances, Democracy and Security (America LEADS) Act, Senate Democrats’ proposal for a new U.S.-China policy.   

The most comprehensive China legislation to date, the America LEADS Act seeks to recognize that only when we have a vibrant economy here at home can we truly compete with China abroad.  The legislation provides significant new investments to rebuild the U.S. economy and provide our workers, entrepreneurs, researchers, and manufacturers with the skills and support needed to out-compete China and succeed in the twenty-first century. The proposal includes over $350 billion in new funding to synchronize and mobilize all aspects of U.S. national power. This approach is grounded in getting the broader Indo-Pacific strategy “right,” centered on our alliances and partnerships, animated by America’s longstanding values, and driven by the need for a course correction, after almost four years of destruction under President Trump.  

Sponsored by 11 leading Democrats, the legislation is guided by four pillars: (1) invest in American competitiveness; (2) support American alliances and partners; (3) restore and advance a values-centered foreign policy; and (4) ensure China pays a price for its predatory actions. 

The America LEADS Act includes the Protecting American Intellectual Property Act and the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, both bipartisan bills authored by Senator Van Hollen. The Senate passed the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act unanimously in May

“China is our most complex bilateral relationship and our greatest geopolitical challenge. But instead of strategically competing with China, President Trump has stumbled between praising Chinese President Xi’s brutality and imposing haphazard penalties. To protect our interests, we need a comprehensive plan that invests in key American industries, cracks down on the theft of our cutting-edge technologies, and bolsters our security footprint abroad. This proposal does just that. I was proud to author a number of provisions in this sweeping package – including the Protecting American Intellectual Property Act and the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act – and I urge my Senate colleagues to take action on this proposal immediately,” said Senator Van Hollen. 

“China challenges us across every dimension of power—political, diplomatic, military, economic, even cultural—offering an alternative and deeply disturbing model for global governance. Rather than tackling these challenges, President Trump’s policies have rolled out the red carpet for Beijing to reshape international institutions and establish global rules and norms that spread the influence of their authoritarian system,” said Ranking Member Menendez.

“Given the shortcomings of Trump’s ‘all bluster and tactics, no strategy’ approach to China, I am proud to be joined by my colleagues in introducing this important legislation to provide an alternative path forward. The America LEADS Act will serve as a launching pad to help our nation emerge from this dark chapter of our history, truly confront the challenges China poses to our national and economic security, and once again lead from a place of strength and reverence for our highest values.” 

“Bold, aggressive action is required to confront the clear and present threat China poses to our economic prosperity and national security. America cannot continue to underinvest in our workers, manufacturing communities, science, technological research, and trade enforcement or cede our leadership in the international community and expect to confront this threat,” said Leader Schumer. “The America LEADS Act counteracts the Chinese Communist Party’s predatory trade practices and aggressive military behavior, reinvigorates our alliances, and turns the tables by making essential investments in our workers, entrepreneurs, and manufacturers to ensure 'Made in America', not 'Made in China,' defines our future.” 

Also joining Van Hollen, Menendez, and Schumer in introducing the America LEADS Act were Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.),  Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.). 

“Whether pursuing erratic, poorly thought out trade policies that hurt our farmers, cozying up to yet another dictator, ignoring the threat of COVID-19, or denying climate change, the Trump Administration has demonstrated an utter lack of strategic vision when it comes to China,” said Democratic Whip Durbin.  “In four short years, our farmers and manufacturers have lost markets for their goods.  China has rolled back democracy in Hong Kong and run internment camps for Uyghurs.  And China has made diplomatic and economic inroads around the world and on our doorstep.  This bill lays out a coherent approach to China — working together where possible, standing up for human rights and democracy, and looking out for the American worker.”  

“Making sure the playing field with our global trading partners is level and fair couldn't be more important to people in Washington state, and today we’ve laid out a strong path forward to ensure that our nation’s policy towards China reflects the best interests of American workers, families, and businesses--as well as the interests of our allies worldwide and within the Indo-Pacific region. The America LEADS Act would bolster our competitiveness and innovation, support local economies and jobs, strengthen trade enforcement against China, and take needed steps in support of human rights and freedoms. We need clear-eyed, thoughtful, and strong leadership in dealing with China and that’s exactly what these policies demonstrate,” said Ranking Member Murray.  

“Taking on China’s decades of cheating on trade takes more than bluster and empty promises – it requires a strategy to confront every aspect of the Chinese government’s malicious behavior. America LEADS would make sure the U.S. government has the plan and the tools to stand up to China’s economic aggression and ensure a level playing field for American workers, families and communities,” said Ranking Member Wyden. 

“The Trump Administration’s feckless and haphazard response to China has allowed China’s diplomatic, military, economic, and political power to grow in ways that are undermining American national interests and those of our allies,” said Ranking Member Brown. “We need a comprehensive, long-term strategy on China. But there are also steps we must take in the urgent short term- The America LEADS Act is a good first step by allowing us to respond directly to aggressive Chinese behavior with a full range of political, diplomatic, and economic tools.” 

“This bill takes a comprehensive look at the way Beijing has sought to challenge American national security and economic interests in the 21st century by reaffirming the things that make us strong: our values, our alliances, our competitiveness, and our innovation. America LEADS invests in American workers, restores investments in research and development, and shores up our competitiveness in science and technology – all while keeping a commitment to human rights, multilateralism, and the rules-based international order. Importantly, America LEADS addresses China’s predatory international economic behavior, and includes measures to strengthen trade enforcement across a wide range of areas, including intellectual property, supply chains, currency manipulation, and counterfeit goods. This bill ensures China plays by the rules. I am proud to support this bill,” said Vice Chairman Warner. 

“America needs a better strategy when it comes to China.  President Trump’s chaotic efforts have made that task even more challenging, but with this bill we’re starting the process of highlighting an effective strategy based on smart investments in U.S. workers and companies, building our competitive advantages over China, and increasing alliances to address China rather than thrashing alliances as Trump has,” said Ranking Member Reed. 

“When it comes to countering China, the U.S. must level the playing field by leading with our like-minded allies abroad and providing our businesses and innovators with the tools they need to compete,” said Senator Shaheen. “The Trump administration’s ‘America Alone’ approach is failing. This legislation recognizes the critical importance of our alliances with other democracies and recommits to our values of freedom and human rights. It also strengthens the United States and empowers the American worker by investing in American ingenuity. This legislation creates American jobs, supports domestic manufacturing, and will help prevent China from stealing our intellectual property. Mitch McConnell should bring this legislation to the floor as soon as possible to send a message to China and the world that the United States is ready to stand up to China’s predatory behavior.” 

The America LEADS Act also includes provisions that strengthen America’s diplomatic, economic, military and soft power posture in the Indo-Pacific and around the globe; promote democracy, human rights, and the rule of law; and safeguard our nation’s innovation and creativity from China’s predatory trade and economic practices. 

Most importantly, the America LEADS Act takes significant steps to replenish the sources of our competitiveness at home, with big investments in American workers, education, scientific research and our nation’s industrial base. 

A summary of the America LEADS proposal can be found here and below.  

"This legislation shows that Democrats know how to lead on the thorny issues presented by China's actions in the economic and security spheres," said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. "The Trump administration has failed miserably, and it is time for an approach based on cooperation with our allies and investing in our economy to promote job creation." 

“Workers need Congress to prioritize the creation of domestic jobs, Sens. Schumer and Menendez took a strong step forward to reshoring, rebuilding, and securing our domestic supply chains with the America LEADS Act,” said United Steelworkers President Tom Conway. 

“Global competition, especially from China, for leadership in the advanced-technology industries critical to powering American economic prosperity intensifies daily. The America LEADS Act represents a comprehensive geostrategic response, bolstering all elements of America’s national power, to meet this challenge,” said President of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation Rob Atkinson.

“This vital legislation significantly boosts federal R&D funding; expands science, technology, and innovation programs; bolsters manufacturing-support programs like Manufacturing USA and MEP; restores the defense industrial base; significantly increases federal investment in STEM and workforce training programs; and calls for expanding alliances with like-minded nations in the Indo-Pacific region. America LEADS is the legislation America urgently needs right now if it’s to remain competitive into the future, and it merits full bipartisan support and timely passage.” 

The America LEADS Act 

  • Invests in American workers and restores United States’ competitiveness in science and technology, manufacturing, global infrastructure, digital technologies, and global clean energy development, by increasing federal funding for research and development, including investment to lead in the development and production of new and emerging technologies like 5G, quantum, and artificial intelligence that will define the twenty-first century, taking action to strengthen domestic supply chains, and providing support for domestic manufacturing industries like semiconductors.
  • Confronts China’s education and influence campaigns by requiring new reporting requirements and invests in registered apprenticeships, training, and STEM education programs with a focus on building a diverse and inclusive innovation and manufacturing workforce for the 21st Century. 
  • Renews and reorients the United States’ diplomatic strategy towards China centered on America’s commitment to its allies around the world and in the Indo-Pacific region, including Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Thailand, and Taiwan, and calls for the United States to reassert its leadership within regional and international organizations, like the World Health Organization and the G7.
  • Reaffirms America’s strong security commitment in the Indo-Pacific and a forward-deployed posture in the region to ensure that all nations can exercise their rights in the region’s international waters and airspace, and directs the United States to provide additional assistance and training to countries under the Indo-Pacific Maritime Security Initiative. The bill also provides regional strategies to confront malign PRC influence in the Western Hemisphere, South and Central Asia, Africa, the Arctic region, and the Middle East and North Africa.
  • Invests in our values, authorizing a broad range of efforts to support human rights and civil society measures, especially as they relate to Tibet, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), and Hong Kong, including allowing certain Hong Kong citizens and residents of Xinjiang to apply for admission to the United States.  The bill also directs the President to report foreign persons identified for engaging in and facilitating forced labor in China and to apply sanctions to Chinese officials complicit in human rights violations. 
  • Focuses on countering and confronting China’s predatory international economic behavior, and includes measures to strengthen trade enforcement across a wide range of areas, including intellectual property, supply chains, currency manipulation, and counterfeit goods.