The Van Wert County Courthouse

Wednesday, May. 22, 2024

Strong trade enforcement needed

As one of the largest manufacturing states in the country, Ohio has a lot to lose and a great deal to gain from U.S. trade policies — including new free trade agreements. That is why we must address our federal trade deficit, crack down on Chinese currency manipulation, and support worker retraining for Americans who lose their jobs due to unfair foreign trade.

By U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown

Three new trade agreements — with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama — are currently moving through Congress with renewed promises of job creation. But Ohioans know that these empty promises often result in empty wallets.

We have already seen what free trade agreements do to Ohio jobs. The record is dismal at best.

In 2010, the United States’ total trade deficit was $634.9 billion. For the entire year, our trade deficit with China was nearly $273.1 billion, an increase of nearly 300 percent over our trade deficit with China in 1999.

And we know that trade deficits cause job loss. In fiscal year 2010 alone, more than 227,000 U.S. workers were certified to participate in the program that helps workers retrain for new jobs because they lost their old jobs due to unfair foreign trade. Given the results of trade agreements, it should be no surprise that Americans are cynical about the effect trade agreements have on American job creation.

In fact, studies show that the U.S. economy could have supported an estimated 7 million more manufacturing jobs if not for the massive trade deficit that has accrued under current U.S. trade policy.

I believe that before our government pursues more free trade agreements, we must focus on trade law enforcement and address foreign currency manipulation.

Too many Ohioans have lost their jobs due to lax trade law enforcement. Workers in Lorain and Youngstown were laid off because U.S. imports of seamless tubes and pipes from China flooded the domestic market — making it difficult for even industrious American workers to compete.

Coated paper — the material used for glossy magazine covers — is manufactured in Southwest Ohio and also imported from China and Indonesia. Because China lacks the raw materials to create coated paper, they have higher production costs than manufacturers in Butler and Montgomery counties. Then, Chinese companies must transport the finished product back to America for sale. Despite these facts, Chinese companies sell coated paper products in our country at drastically lower rates than U.S. manufacturers.

How is this possible? It’s clear that China manipulates the system by manipulating its currency — allowing Chinese manufacturers to export products that undercut American prices.

To fight back, U.S. workers petitioned the International Trade Commission (ITC) — where I testified on their behalf — to address the persistent problem of oversaturation of Chinese goods in the U.S. marketplace.

And we won.

When workers in other industries — like tires or oil steel tubes — filed similar ITC petitions, enforcement measures taken by the Obama administration led to the creation or retention of hundreds of jobs across our state.

New bipartisan legislation that I wrote along with Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) — the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act — would level the playing field for American manufacturing by directing the U.S. Department of Commerce to treat currency undervaluation as an unfair subsidy. That would allow our government to stand up for American workers and manufacturers by imposing countervailing duties on subsidized exports from countries like China.

As a member of the President’s Export Council, I will continue to urge our government to get serious about cracking down on illegal practices by our trading partners that undermine American manufacturing.

In addition to strong trade enforcement, we need to help American workers who have lost their jobs due to unfair foreign trade.

Since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was passed in 1994, an estimated 40,000 Ohio workers have become eligible for federal retraining resources because they have lost their jobs due to U.S. trade policy.

Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) — the bipartisan program that for over half a century has helped a portion of American workers prepare for new jobs after a factory closes or scales back production due to unfair foreign trade — has been a lifeline for many Ohioans.  In Hamilton County alone, more than 1,500 workers have been certified to receive the retraining support that TAA provides.

In 2009, Congress made important reforms to the Trade Adjustment Assistance program so that service workers and workers whose jobs have been moved offshore to countries like China — with which we don’t have a formal free trade agreement — could also receive assistance to train for new jobs.  These reforms expired February 12 and need to be renewed before we pursue more free trade agreements.

That is why I recently introduced legislation that would extend TAA for five years. TAA has enjoyed strong bipartisan support in the past and support from the business community — which relies on our nation’s skilled workers.

We have an obligation to take care of American workers and American industry first. TAA does that.

Taking care of American workers should be our first priority. That means enforcing trade laws, cracking down on Chinese currency manipulation, and passing a long-term extension of Trade Adjustment Assistance. By making trade policy work for America, we can keep Ohio manufacturers competitive and ensure that our state’s workers have the training needed for the jobs of the 21st century.

POSTED: 07/13/11 at 12:21 am. FILED UNDER: Opinions