Yesterday, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced bill S.2994—the “Leveling the Playing Field Act” (“Act”)—in the U.S. Senate.  The legislation is intended to improve the United States’ ability to address unfair foreign trade practices, in part by strengthening the U.S. antidumping (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) laws.  The bill has provisions affecting both the Department of Commerce’s (“Commerce”) and the International Trade Commission’s (ITC) conduct of AD/CVD investigations.

Among other provisions, the Act would codify existing agency practices regarding Commerce’s application of adverse inferences wherever a mandatory respondent does not cooperate with the agency’s investigation.  In addition, the legislation would clarify that Commerce has the authority to determine whether to investigate voluntary respondents in the course of an AD/CVD investigation.  The lack of legislative clarity has resulted in a number of recent appeals from foreign companies that Commerce declined to individually investigate as voluntary respondents.

Notably, the bill also seeks to increase the number of factors the ITC considers in evaluating injury to domestic companies, as well as to the period of time analyzed.  This ensures that the agency’s finding is based on a comprehensive assessment of the industry’s condition.  The Act would also clarify current statutory provisions used to assess a country’s non-market economy status.

Discussing the bill, Senator Brown stated, “there are encouraging signs of a comeback in American manufacturing, but that progress could be lost if we don’t have strong trade laws to level the playing field… This bill would restore strength to our trade laws and ensure that American companies can compete in a fair marketplace.”

The Leveling the Playing Field Act is only the latest legislation introduced by Senator Brown in an effort to support U.S. manufacturing.  Just last month, Senator Brown introduced the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Act of 2014 in the Senate, which would extend the TAA program through 2020.  In June of last year, Senator Brown introduced the Currency Exchange and Oversight Reform Act of 2013, which, among other issues, would require Commerce to investigate in the course of a CVD proceeding whether a foreign government’s currency manipulation constitutes a countervailable subsidy.