WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, today applauded the passage of his bipartisan bill, the USTR Inspector General Act of 2021, as an amendment to the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, bipartisan legislation that will lay the foundation for the next century of American economic leadership. The larger package also includes the Strategic Competition Act, one of the senator’s most significant legislative priorities from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. This unprecedented, bipartisan legislation will mobilize all United States strategic, economic, and diplomatic tools for an Indo-Pacific strategy that enables the U.S. government to compete effectively with the People’s Republic of China and the challenges it poses to our national and economic security for decades to come.
This USTR Inspector General (IG) provision would allow for independent, non-partisan oversight and increased transparency and accountability at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), which came under increased scrutiny over reports and allegations of inconsistent policy implementation, conflicts of interest, and political favoritism during the past administration.
“The U.S Trade Representative is responsible for developing, coordinating, and implementing U.S. international trade policies with far-reaching consequences for our country’s economy, as well as American workers, businesses and civil society,” said Sen. Menendez. “That’s why I’m thrilled the Senate has taken concrete action to address the longstanding lack of oversight over U.S. trade policy.”
The USTR Inspector General amendment would establish a statutory IG for the United States Trade Representative under the Inspector General Act of 1978, similar to IGs for the Departments of Commerce, Defense, State, Justice, and Treasury, to perform independent, non-partisan oversight, increase transparency and accountability, and crack down on waste, fraud, and abuse. It would also require the president to appoint an individual to serve as USTR IG, subject to advice and consent of the Senate, not later than 120 days after enactment.
Sen. Menendez added, “Inspectors General play a critical role in guaranteeing that government agencies follow the law, are held accountable for any wrongdoing, and ensure taxpayer dollars are well spent. Passage of my amendment means the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative will no longer be one of the only cabinet-level agencies without this critical and time-tested oversight tool. More importantly, it will guarantee transparent trade policy that will truly prioritize the economic interests of the American people.”
In addition to Sens. Menendez and John Cornyn (R-Texas), the Republican lead, the USTR IG amendment to the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act was cosponsored by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tom Carper D-Del.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Todd Young (D-Ind.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Angus King (I-Maine), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Patty Murray (D-Wash.). The amendment ultimately passed and was included in the larger legislative package by a 91-4 vote in the Senate.
Click HERE for a copy of the USTR IG amendment.