Tough-on-China bills eyed for passage before 2024 election: US House Speaker Mike Johnson

US House Speaker Mike Johnson on Monday pledged to push through more China-targeted legislation before House members stand for re-election in November.

America’s top-ranking Republican said the measures could further restrict outbound investments in China, close a trade loophole for small parcels from the mainland and yield a biosecurity act prohibiting federal contracting with the country’s biotech firms.

“China poses the greatest threat to global peace. Congress must keep our focus on countering China with every tool at our disposal,” said Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, in remarks at the Hudson Institute, a Washington-based think tank.

“In the short time remaining in this Congress … the House will be voting on a series of bills to empower the next administration to hit our enemies’ economies on day one,” added the conservative congressman and ally of former US president Donald Trump.
2024 Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at Mar-a-Lago in Florida as Johnson listens on April 12, 2024. The US House speaker is an ally of the former American president. Photo: AP

The goal was to have the package of China-related legislation signed into law by the end of this year, he said.

“We will work aggressively toward that package. I am very hopeful that much of this can be bipartisan.”

“Beijing is our number-one foreign threat,” he said on Monday. “They exploit every nook and cranny in our financial and economic systems.”

Johnson said he would continue the work of the House select committee on China in the next Congress.

One bill he has championed is a sanctions package meant to “punish the Chinese military firms that provide material support to Russia and Iran”.

The House was also working on a measure to restrict outbound investments in China, he added, noting it was slated to move this autumn.

In January, a House Financial Services subcommittee held a hearing exploring legislation to further limit American investment in Chinese tech sectors.
It followed US President Joe Biden’s executive order in August curbing US private equity and venture capital investments in Chinese companies covering semiconductors and microelectronics, quantum technologies and certain artificial intelligence systems.

The House would also vote on the Biosecure Act meant to “halt federal contracts with biotech companies that are beholden to adversaries and endanger Americans’ healthcare debt”, Johnson said.

The bill, introduced to the House in January by former Republican congressman Mike Gallagher, names Chinese genomics service provider BGI Group and biopharmaceutical firm Wuxi AppTec as companies of concern. It drew bipartisan co-sponsorship.
On trade and tariffs, Johnson said the House would “rein in the de minimis privilege for any goods subject to section 301 trade enforcement tariffs”, referring to tariffs launched by the Trump administration.

“That will help stymie China’s attempts to exploit American trade,” Johnson added.

The long-time American trade provision allows companies to ship packages worth under US$800 to the US without paying tariffs. According to data cited by the House Ways and Means committee, 60 per cent of de minimis entries come from China.

China has witnessed a boom in small-item trade as sellers send parcels with a few items directly from local factories to shoppers overseas.


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