Ohio senior U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, running this year for a second term, finds himself in a tough fight with a little known newcomer outside of Ohio, State Treasurer Josh Mandel, who won the most votes of any candidate running for statewide office in 2010.
A 38-year veteran of Ohio politics where labor issues have largely played a big role in elections over the decades, Sen. Brown, who defeated former GOP two-term Sen. Mike DeWine in the Democratic wave election of 2006, has never been mistaken for someone whose allegiance to the private sector, like Mandel's seems to be, comes first and last.
Speaking on a conference call with reporters Wednesday on a new trade policy bill he will introduce this week, Brown said that had it not been for the 8-plus million dollars in attack ads already spent against him so far this election cycle, his election battle with Mandel "wouldn't be a contest."
Sen. Brown attributed the antagonism directed toward him to his support of labor issues and labor unions and to his opposition to outsourcing jobs and subsidies for oil companies, among other positions he's staked out during his life in elected politics.
Subscribe. It's free. Just do it
Sen. Brown, joined on the call by James P. Hoffa, president, International Brotherhood of Teamsters and Stephen Biegun, VP of International Government Affairs, the Ford Motor Company, said that with negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) slated to continue next week in California, he will introduce new legislation this week—the 21st Century Trade and Market Access Act—that would delegate new authority to the Administration to negotiate new trade deals while re-asserting the role of Congressional oversight into the substance of negotiations.
Sen. Brown said his legislation, which doesn't have co-sponsors yet, is designed to prevent another NAFTA-style agreement from undermining Ohio manufacturing and automotive jobs by restoring Congressional oversight to trade negotiations to ensure that American trading partners play by the same rules as the U.S.
The raspy-voiced Sen. Brown noted that while Congress has the constitutional authority to regulate trade and commerce with foreign nations, for the past several decades, it has delegated to the executive branch the authority to select trading partners, negotiate, and sign new trade deals before it votes on the matter.
Through the 21st Century Trade and Market Access Act, Sen. Brown said it would delegate new authority to the Administration to negotiate new trade deals while re-asserting the role of Congressional oversight into the substance of negotiations.
According to Sen. Brown's office, the TPP is a proposed trade agreement that would link several countries in North, Central, and South America with countries in the Asia-Pacific. In addition to the United States, the current TPP countries are Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam; Canada, Mexico, and Japan have also announced their intent to join the TPP.
Sen. Brown's office said he has "consistently called on the Obama Administration to support manufacturing and automotive jobs in the TPP, and to use TPP negotiations as an opportunity to learn from the mistakes of prior trade agreements. Last year, Brown sent a letter urging President Obama to change course in trade policy and rewrite trade rules to put Ohio jobs and Ohio workers first. Brown's office said he "led the House opposition to the Dominican Republic – Central America Free Trade Agreement in 2005, falling just two votes shy of blocking the agreement after the vote was held open for nearly two hours."
Sen. Brown, the author of the book Myths of Free Trade and described as “Congress'" leading proponent of American manufacturing, stood up to President Clinton as a Congressman during debate of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994.
"After NAFTA, our trade policy seems to represent insanity," Sen. Brown told reporters today. Congress needs to set the direction ... and export American products not American jobs," he said.
Mr. Hoffa said emphasized the importance of analyzing "other people's markets before we start negotiating." He added, "The good thing about trade is that you know who's winning and losing [and] we are losing on trade. The public has lost confidence in trade, thinking its losing us jobs, and they are right." Hoffa said that all our trade agreements are based on NAFTA, and it "isn't working."
Mr. Hoffa underscored the importance of championing issues pertaining to rights of labor, environment and safety in future trade agreements. Fast tracking trade agreements as is now standard procedure is a big problem, they said. "We've lost control of trade negotiations, do we only care about people in this country, or other countries that don't have the rights we have. Labor rights are an afterthought not a first thought; Buy American will be done away with," he said.
Stephen Biegun, Ford Motor Company's VP of International Government Affairs, focused on Japan as a country whose policy to promote exports while limiting imports disqualifys it for being a member of any trade agreements with the U.S. "Japan remains the least open automotive market in world and free-trade isn't fixing that," he said, saying that "Ford joins you on that point." Brown's bill, Mr. Biegun noted, will establish a "new set of data to pursue new negotiations" because "free trade has to deliver two-way opportunity ... [to] shape trade policy that really does benefit American trade policy."
Mr. Hoffa, who union membership totals about 1.4 million, said America has lost 5 million jobs due to NAFTA. "Good jobs are going, not McDonald or Burger King jobs; many are unionized but not all ... don't export good jobs and leave hamburger flipping jobs for the united states," he said.
Representing a state where 1 in 8 jobs is tied to the auto industry, Sen. Brown took up the cause of supply chain manufacturers. His concern, he said, is for the supply chain for electronics and auto machinery, which he says has increased its share of domestic auto-manufacturing content from 50 percent for the Jeep Wrangler or Liberty to 75 percent today. "It's happening more and more, and we don't want to lose this advantage."
Mr. Biegun said future trade agreements need to be "high quality, high disciplined trade agreements" that "make sure we select the right partners to negotiate with." Bringing in members who are not free traders, like Japan, defeats purpose of the TPP. "It's bringing the fox into the hen house."
Sen. Brown and his guests all agreed that precluded currency manipulation among free trade partners is critical, otherwise it erases the advantages of TPP. "Japan just isn't ready ... they must demonstrate over years [that] it's open. Even the Koreans have backed out of the Japanese market ... overreaching and adding Japan would kill it."
Sen. Brown said the bill will serve as a marker for "where we want to go with this legislation." To be introduced yet this week, Sen. Brown said that while he doesn't have a co-sponsor yet, he will seek co-sponsors soon.
Send news or tips to email@example.com