October 19, 2005
Lavin deals with trade complaints during Senate confirmation hearing
By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service
WASHINGTON - Canton native Franklin L. Lavin, nominated for a top trade post in the Bush administration, got his first taste of the intensity of the issue on Capitol Hill during his Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday.
He drew sparks from the senior Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, during a discussion of a lumber dispute with Canada.
“I don’t want to undertake any action which is injurious to U.S. businesses,” Lavin told half a dozen senators.
But Sen. Max Baucus cut him off.
“It’s not only not being injurious, but to be helpful,” the Montana Democrat snapped.
“I agree, senator,” replied Lavin.
President Bush has nominated Lavin to be undersecretary of commerce for international trade, the top trade position in the U.S. Commerce Department. He currently serves as U.S. ambassador to Singapore and previously worked as a businessman in Asia.
The long-running lumber dispute with Canada provided ammunition for several of the senators, who charged that Canada unfairly subsidizes its lumber exports by providing its companies with access to public forest at below-market costs.
“I can assure you this,” Lavin said when asked about the dispute. “We will turn over every single stone we can to make sure that American workers are not victimized by unfair trade practices.”
That answer did not provide enough detail for Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., who urged Lavin to share more specifics on how he would handle the conflict.
Earlier in the two-hour examination, Lavin told Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., that one of his goals as undersecretary would be to persuade Canadian officials to return to the bargaining table to try to reach a settlement on the dispute.
“There’s no question that Canada subsidizes lumber,” Baucus said.
“If that doesn’t constitute a subsidy, and result in their dumping unemployment to us, I don’t know what” does, added Smith.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, noted the committee’s frustration over trade policy as well as occasional difficulty getting information from the administration. But after the hearing, he said Lavin and the other nominees did “very well” and face no obvious opposition to confirmation by the full Senate.
During a discussion of trade violations, Lavin said he wasn’t sure if it was wise to use a certain type of trade sanction called a countervailing duty against China. But referring to other sanctions, he said, “We have a good toolbox and we’re fully prepared to use it with regard to unfair trade practices in China.”
Lavin proposed efforts to open the Chinese market to U.S. companies, as well as collaborating with Chinese victims of copyright infringement, as ways to combat what Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, described as “rampant intellectual piracy” in China.
Lavin was accompanied by his daughter Abby, who whispered to him as the meeting began, “Rock and roll, dad.” Several other relatives from Canton — his sister-in-law Lauren Lavin, and her sons Austin Lavin and Seth Lavin — also came to the hearing.
After being introduced by Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, Lavin said his wife Ann could not be with him because she was “still on station in Singapore.” He added that his other children Nat and Elizabeth were “dear in my heart” even though an ocean kept them apart.
Lavin’s nomination won approval from the Senate Banking Committee last month. The Senate Finance Committee could vote on his nomination within two weeks or so, sending it then to the full Senate for final approval.