Sherrod Brown on Free Trade
Democratic Sr Senator; previously Representative (OH-13)
"These trade agreements clearly have sold out the middle class. Ten years ago, we had a $1 billion trade deficit with China on auto parts. Today it's $10 billion," he said. "Now we have a new steel mill in Youngstown, more steel jobs in Cleveland and in Lorain, and more aluminum jobs in Heath, Ohio, and Sidney, Ohio."
Mandel countered Brown's claim of bipartisanship. "I need to correct your first comment. You take a back seat to everyone when it comes to bipartisanship," he said. "Since Sherrod Brown's gone to Washington, our trade cap with China has grown 16 times greater. One out of every four kids living in Ohio is in poverty. That is a record of failure."
His backup? China's lax labor, safety and environmental standards. Its minuscule wages. Its currency manipulation. All of these make it harder for American companies with a domestic workforce to compete, Brown says, yet make China attractive to companies that want low-skilled hourly workers.
Trade is Brown's signature issue. He has voted against trade deal after trade deal--with South Korea, Panama, Colombia, Central America, Mexico and Canada and, most importantly here, China. But Brown's Republican opponent, Josh Mandel, said in a news release, "Make no mistake--Sherrod Brown is one of the main D.C. politicians responsible for Ohio jobs moving to China."
BROWN: I would renegotiate NAFTA, as I would renegotiate PNTR with China. We’ve lost so many small businesses, as these big companies outsource. And Mike DeWine has supported every time these trade agreements that give incentives to the big corporations.
DeWINE: When steel companies were dumping steel, we got tariffs. When a foreign country dumps into the US, we give the fine to the US companies. When it comes time to protect Ohio industries, he’s not there.
BROWN All of us were involved in [the steel issue]. The problem is, those tariffs to protect the steel industry, they didn’t last very long. Neither of those laws that he talks about are still in effect. But I want to see more trade. I just don’t want one-way free trade where our biggest export is jobs to Mexico & China. I want fair trade, with more exports, not this free trade that causes the kind of job loss that we’re seeing. We simply have abandoned the middle class when we passed these trade agreements.
Proponents support voting YES because:
Rep. RANGEL: It's absolutely ridiculous to believe that we can create jobs without trade. I had the opportunity to travel to Peru recently. I saw firsthand how important this agreement is to Peru and how this agreement will strengthen an important ally of ours in that region. Peru is resisting the efforts of Venezuela's authoritarian President Hugo Chavez to wage a war of words and ideas in Latin America against the US. Congress should acknowledge the support of the people of Peru and pass this legislation by a strong margin.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
Rep. WU: I regret that I cannot vote for this bill tonight because it does not put human rights on an equal footing with environmental and labor protections.
Rep. KILDEE: All trade agreements suffer from the same fundamental flaw: They are not self-enforcing. Trade agreements depend upon vigorous enforcement, which requires official complaints be made when violations occur. I have no faith in President Bush to show any enthusiasm to enforce this agreement. Congress should not hand this administration yet another trade agreement because past agreements have been more efficient at exporting jobs than goods and services. I appeal to all Members of Congress to vote NO on this. But I appeal especially to my fellow Democrats not to turn their backs on those American workers who suffer from the export of their jobs. They want a paycheck, not an unemployment check.
The mission of the Cato Institute Center for Trade Policy Studies is to increase public understanding of the benefits of free trade and the costs of protectionism.
The Cato Trade Center focuses not only on U.S. protectionism, but also on trade barriers around the world. Cato scholars examine how the negotiation of multilateral, regional, and bilateral trade agreements can reduce trade barriers and provide institutional support for open markets. Not all trade agreements, however, lead to genuine liberalization. In this regard, Trade Center studies scrutinize whether purportedly market-opening accords actually seek to dictate marketplace results, or increase bureaucratic interference in the economy as a condition of market access.
Studies by Cato Trade Center scholars show that the United States is most effective in encouraging open markets abroad when it leads by example. The relative openness and consequent strength of the U.S. economy already lend powerful support to the worldwide trend toward embracing open markets. Consistent adherence by the United States to free trade principles would give this trend even greater momentum. Thus, Cato scholars have found that unilateral liberalization supports rather than undermines productive trade negotiations.
Scholars at the Cato Trade Center aim at nothing less than changing the terms of the trade policy debate: away from the current mercantilist preoccupation with trade balances, and toward a recognition that open markets are their own reward.
The following ratings are based on the votes the organization considered most important; the numbers reflect the percentage of time the representative voted the organization's preferred position.
A joint resolution approving the renewal of import restrictions contained in the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003. The original act sanctioned the ruling military junta, and recognized the National League of Democracy as the legitimate representative of the Burmese people.
Legislative Outcome: Related bills: H.J.RES.44, H.J.RES.93, S.J.RES.41; became Public Law 110-52.
[Explanatory note from Wikipedia.com "Exchange Rate"]:
Between 1994 and 2005, the Chinese yuan renminbi was pegged to the US dollar at RMB 8.28 to $1. Countries may gain an advantage in international trade if they manipulate the value of their currency by artificially keeping its value low. It is argued that China has succeeded in doing this over a long period of time. However, a 2005 appreciation of the Yuan by 22% was followed by a 39% increase in Chinese imports to the US. In 2010, other nations, including Japan & Brazil, attempted to devalue their currency in the hopes of subsidizing cheap exports and bolstering their ailing economies. A low exchange rate lowers the price of a country's goods for consumers in other countries but raises the price of imported goods for consumers in the manipulating country.
Excerpts from Letter from 31 Senators to the Secretary of Commerce: We write to you regarding countervailing duty and antidumping investigations being conducted by the Department of Commerce on imports of steel reinforcing bar (rebar) from Turkey and Mexico.
Rebar is one of the largest volume steel products produced in the US, employing more than 10,000 workers in over 30 states. With nearly 7 million tons of domestic production, a healthy rebar industry is critical to a strong economy. However, it is our understanding that imports from Turkey and Mexico are surging into the US, nearly doubling from 2011 to 2013.
The ITC recently found that Mexican and Turkish rebar producers are consistently underselling US producers, resulting in substantial lost sales and depressed; [plus] a preliminary finding that the Government of Turkey bestows energy subsidies to its rebar industry, but that such subsidies are only de minimis in value. This seems surprising given the inherently energy-intensive nature of steel production.
Opposing argument: (Heritage Foundation, "Guide to Antidumping Laws", July 21, 1992) One of the pillars of the "fair trade" approach is a set of so-called antidumping and countervailing duty laws. Antidumping laws seek to prevent products manufactured overseas from being sold by foreign firms in the U.S. at "less than fair value." Countervailing duties seek to offset subsidies provided by foreign governments by imposing duties at the U.S. border.
The antidumping laws are confusing and arbitrary, and in many instances merely allow American firms to secure punitive tariffs against competing importers where no unfair trade practices are involved. Worse, these laws drive up the costs of imported components used by other American enterprises, making their products less competitive in world markets. As a result, American consumers pay higher prices for both imported and domestically produced goods.
Excerpts from Letter from 31 Senators to the Secretary of Commerce: We are writing in strong support of the Department's decision to initiate antidumping and countervailing duty investigations of passenger vehicle and light truck tires from China.
China has targeted the tire sector for development and there are several hundred tire manufacturing facilities now operating in that country. In 2009, the United Steelworkers (USW) sought relief from a flood of similar tires from China that were injuring our producers and their workers.
Unfortunately, shortly after relief expired in 2012, imports of these tires from China once again skyrocketed. In June 2014, the USW alleged dumping and subsidies, identifying dumping margins as high as 87%. Our laws need to be fairly and faithfully enforced to ensure that workers can be confident that, when they work hard and play by the rules, their government will stand by their side to fight foreign predatory trade practices.
America's laws against unfair trade are a critical underpinning of our economic policies and economic prosperity. Given the chance, American workers can out-compete anyone. But, in the face of China's continual targeting of our manufacturing base, we need to enforce our laws.
Opposing argument: (Cato Institute, "Burning Rubber", Sept. 11, 2009) USW and the unions feel that they have earned the president's support. The president is presumed to owe Big Labor for his election last November. Will the president do what is overwhelmingly in the best interest of the country? Or will he do what he thinks is best for himself politically? The president should reject the recommendations of the USITC and deny import restrictions altogether. A decision to reject trade restraints in the tires case would be reassuring to a world that is struggling to grow out of recession. The costs of any protectionism under these circumstances could unleash a protectionist backlash in the US an
Heritage Action summary of vote# S206: The Senate voted to table (kill) an amendment by Sen. Kirk to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. Sen. Kirk recommends voting NO. Heritage Foundation recommends voting YES because the "Ex-Im Bank is little more than a $140 billion slush fund for corporate welfare."
OnTheIssues explanation: Voting NO would allow a vote on reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank. Voting YES would kill the bill for reauthorizing the Ex-Im Bank.
Cato Institute reason for voting YES to kill the bill:The Ex-Im Bank's reauthorization buffs contend that Ex-Im fills a void left by private sector lenders unwilling to provide financing for certain transactions. Ex-Im's critics [say that] by effectively superseding risk-based decision-making with the choices of a handful of bureaucrats pursuing political objectives, Ex-Im risks taxpayer dollars. It turns out that for nearly every Ex-Im financing authorization that might advance the fortunes of a single US company, there is at least one US industry whose firms are put at a competitive disadvantage. These are the unseen consequences of Ex-Im's mission.
Ratings by USA*Engage indicate support for trade engagement or trade sanctions. The organization's self-description: "USA*Engage is concerned about the proliferation of unilateral foreign policy sanctions at the federal, state and local level. Despite the fact that broad trade-based unilateral sanctions rarely achieve our foreign policy goals, they continue to have political appeal. Unilateral sanctions give the impression that the United States is 'doing something,' while American workers, farmers and businesses absorb the costs."
VoteMatch scoring for the USA*Engage ratings is as follows :
The Progressive Caucus opposes awarding China permanent Most Favored Nation trading status at this time. We believe that it would be a serious setback for the protection and expansion of worker rights, human rights and religious rights. We also believe it will harm the US economy. We favor continuing to review on an annual basis China’s trading status, and we believe it is both legal and consistent with US WTO obligations to do so. The Progressive Caucus believes that trade relations with the US should be conditioned on the protection of worker rights, human rights and religious rights. If Congress gives China permanent MFN status, the US will lose the best leverage we have to influence China to enact those rights and protections. At the current time, the US buys about 40% of China’s exports, making it a consumer with a lot of potential clout. So long as the US annually continues to review China’s trade status, we have the ability to debate achievement of basic worker and human rights and to condition access to the US market on the achievement of gains in worker and human rights, if necessary. But once China is given permanent MFN, it permanently receives unconditional access to the US market and we lose that leverage. China will be free to attract multinational capital on the promise of super low wages, unsafe workplace conditions and prison labor and permanent access to the US market.
Furthermore, giving China permanent MFN will be harmful to the US economy, since the record trade deficit with China (and attendant problems such as loss of US jobs, and lower average wages in the US) will worsen. For 1999, the trade deficit is likely to be nearly $70 billion. Once China is awarded permanent MFN and WTO membership, the trade deficit will worsen.
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