WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today gave the following opening remarks at a full committee hearing on U.S. national security and economic statecraft: ensuring U.S. global leadership for the twenty-first century. The witnesses included The Honorable Jose W. Fernandez, under secretary of State for economic growth, energy, and the environment, The Honorable Enoh T. Ebong, director of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, and Mr. Andy Baukol, counselor to the secretary and performing the duties of the under secretary for international affairs at U.S. Department of Treasury.
Ranking Member Risch gave the following remarks:
“Well thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
“Leading, promoting, and protecting economic freedom should be a major goal of the United States. The embrace of free market principles, inclusive economic growth, and trade makes Americans more prosperous. We must also defend against countries like China and Russia, who place commerce at the service of their political objectives.
“I would associate myself with the remarks of the chairman that this is an incredibly important subject, particularly in the face of the fact that we are competing with countries who use economics to promote their political objectives. I think the chairman has underscored that and I know he has been very active in this field. That’s one of the reasons that I’ve drawn the bill so that we can work together to craft a bill that we can all get on board with and attack this problem.
“We in America do business differently than autocratic countries do. That causes us no end of problems, not only for America, but also for American businessmen.
“We face severe economic challenges here at home, and many of our partners struggle with post-COVID economies or political instability. Meanwhile, China is capitalizing on these opportunities to benefit itself through anti-competitive means.
“With this context in mind, legislative and executive branch focus on international economic policy is crucial. Soon I will introduce the Economic and Commercial Opportunities and Networks Act to help strengthen that policy. Again, I hope to work with the chairman and be able to bring our two bills together so we can have agreement and move forward with the objectives we have in common. There are several key areas of the bill I would like our witnesses to explore today.
“The first is strengthening the Department of State’s economic corps. The private sector is key to market-based economic growth. However, our economic officers – and their colleagues at other agencies – are key to whether our economic and commercial diplomacy is successful.
“My bill includes provisions on promotions, recruitment, and retention, among other things. I would like to hear directly from all three witnesses on the health of their workforce, what types of staffing challenges they face, and ideas for addressing these challenges.
“Next, I want to hear about energy engagement. I am concerned that the Biden Administration’s immense emphasis on climate change is coming at the expense of the energy needs of developing nations. Most Indo-Pacific nations still want to work with the United States on oil and gas, but are finding their U.S. counterparts are not interested.
“Similarly, we must work with our Sub-Saharan African partners. Energy infrastructure in Africa is nascent at best without large distribution grids required for wind and solar. Africa’s energy needs are significant, and a range of solutions, including oil and gas, are needed to power the continent and support economic development.
“With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the president is finally embracing the reality that the world will continue to rely heavily on fossil fuels for some time into the future. However, the State Department has not clarified whether it is able to work on natural gas and other cleaner fossil fuels with partner countries. The Development Finance Corporation’s self-imposed and arbitrary mandate on carbon means it cannot finance any future natural gas projects. I would like a clear understanding of what each of your agencies are doing on energy, and what specific guidance and mandates you’re operating under.
“Third, I expect the witnesses to lay out how each agency contributes to pushing back on anti-competitive economic behavior. My bill includes three new tools to tackle intellectual property theft, forced technology transfer, and unfair subsidies. That includes a novel reform to U.S. anti-trust laws so that U.S. companies can take action against foreign state-owned enterprises engaged in predatory pricing.
“Finally, I am in the process of crafting a bill on cooperation with U.S. allies and partners on critical and strategic minerals. The U.S. must have a two-track approach to critical minerals: increasing domestic production and working with allies and partners.
“I want to hear from the witnesses how we can work with allies and partners to provide secure access and means of production throughout the critical minerals supply chain, foster market-based incentives for joint investment, and ensure robust environmental standards. I also want to hear what each agency is doing on critical minerals. We continue to receive bleak reports to the Intelligence Committee and the Energy and Natural Resource Committee about China’s monopolies of minerals critical to the United States, our allies and their industrial base.
“Let me be clear, however: working with allies and partners is not a substitute for expanding domestic development and production of critical minerals. Idaho has some of these critical minerals, but the U.S. government blocks companies from sourcing their minerals from the U.S. “I remain extremely concerned by efforts to erode our domestic mining industry and to rely solely on other countries for resources we have here at home. We must do both.
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”
These remarks have been lightly edited for clarity. Witness testimony is available on foreign.senate.gov.