Steve Griffin, Deseret News
FILE - U.S. Senator Mitt Romney, R-Utah, speaks with audience members following his first town hall meeting in Farmington on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019. Having long called China one of the biggest threats to the U.S, Romney and two Democrats introduced legislation this week aimed at protecting the economy and national security.

SALT LAKE CITY — Having long called China one of the biggest threats to the U.S, Republican Sen. Mitt Romney and two Democrats introduced legislation this week aimed at protecting the economy and national security.

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Act would help ensure the U.S. government and Congress are prepared to face the multiple challenges posed by China, according to Romney and co-sponsors Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., and Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.

Romney said the bill puts safeguards in place to confront the "critical" threat China poses.

"We must develop a comprehensive strategy to confront the unprecedented challenge that the Chinese government poses to U.S. national security, U.S. intellectual property and U.S. businesses," he said in a statement.

" I'm probably more of a hawk on China than the president. I think we have to hold China's feet to the fire. "
Utah Sen. Mitt Romney during an interview in March

The bill would put in place the recommendations of the bipartisan U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, which monitors and investigates the trade relationship with China and submits reports to Congress.

Romney recently discussed trade, China and national security in a meeting with President Donald Trump. Romney has accused China of "cheating" and "stealing" American jobs. China, he said, has moved from currency manipulation to intellectual property theft to combat the U.S. economically.

"I'm probably more of a hawk on China than the president," Romney said last month. "I think we have to hold China's feet to the fire."

The Commerce Department announced in March that the U.S. trade deficit surged nearly 19 percent in December, pushing last year's trade imbalance to a decadelong-high $621 billion. The gap with China on goods widened to an all-time record of $419.2 billion.

"From its unfair trade practices to its rapid military expansion, China now presents security, economic and political challenges to the United States unlike any we’ve faced before," Coons said in a statement.

The U.S., he said, must be in a position to "work with China where we can, but also push back where we must" as it aggressively expands its power and influence around the world.

Jacquelyn Martin, AP
FILE - Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, left, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., join President Donald Trump, far right, former U.S. hostage in Yemen, Danny Burch, and Burch's son, Wednesday, March 6, 2019, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.

Kaine said the U.S. has for too long failed to address the challenges China poses to the economy, allies in East Asia and international norms on human rights and civil liberties.

"It is now clear that a new approach is needed, and this bill will begin to lay the foundation for a reassessment of the U.S.-China relationship," he said.

The proposed legislation would require:

• The administration to assess and report on the potential vulnerabilities of the federal supply chain to Chinese threats.

• The U.S. trade representative to assess whether it is in the national interest to bring a complaint against China at the World Trade Organization in coordination with U.S. allies and partners.

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• The Justice Department to identify whether members of the Chinese Communist Party are intimidating U.S. residents, and ensure Chinese government publications distributed in the U.S. are clearly labeled as such.

• The National Counterintelligence and Security Center to report on the influence and propaganda activities of the Chinese Communist Party in the U.S.

• The comptroller general to assess potential risks involved in U.S.-China technical cooperation.

• The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to report on China’s trade-distorting practices and what it is doing to counteract their anti-competitive impact.