A U.S. senator praised the passage of trade agreements with three nations earlier this week and noted it could lead to a growth in jobs.
“It’s been a busy week,” Sen. Rob Portman said during a teleconference with regional media Thursday afternoon. “Yesterday (Wednesday) all three of the pending export agreements (with) South Korea, Colombia and Panama were passed. This is a milestone.”
The Senate voted 83-15 and the House 278-151 to ratify the South Korea deal, while the Panama agreement passed the Senate by a vote of 77-22 and the House 300-129. The Colombia agreement passed the Senate by a vote of 66-33 and the House 262-167.
Portman said he played a role in helping to negotiate the bipartisan measures.
“I’m really pleased the president sent them to the Senate for ratification,” Portman said. “I will say, as I did on the floor yesterday, I am concerned American businesses and workers have spent billion of dollars in tariffs while the president has waited to send them to Congress. It’s too bad that he took so long. In the mean time, he hasn’t been negotiating any more bilateral agreements.”
Portman called on President Barack Obama to take a more active role in seeking out trade pacts with foreign countries. Doing so should help American businesses and workers increase their market share worldwide.
“Really for the last three years in this administration, there have been no efforts to negotiate new agreements,” Portman said. “During that last period, there have been many other agreements that have been entered into by other countries and this has resulted in U.S. exporters losing market share.”
Increasing market share is important in the global economy, the former trade representative said.
“We need to get the president and this administration back in the business of negotiating trade-opening agreements because it’s good for Ohio, it’s good for our workers, it’s good for getting our unemployment numbers down and it’s good for economic growth,” Portman said. “I’ve been trying to do that by offering to support, through my legislation and on the floor, anything to give the president the authority to negotiate agreements.”
The U.S. lawmaker also leveled praise on colleagues for coming together to pass a measure that attacked China for manipulating its currency. This manipulation allows Chinese exports to remain less expensive than imports to the Asian nation.
“Our current trade relationship with China, as important as it is, is not on that level playing field and one of the reasons is the fact that they intervene in and therefore manipulate their currency to not allow it to appreciate as it should,” Portman said. “This makes their exports less expensive and makes imports into their country more expensive.”
Portman’s Ohio colleague Sherrod Brown opposed the trade agreements in favor of a more balanced arrangement.
In a news release, Brown said the deals are not good for Americans.
“NAFTA-style trade agreements haven’t led to net job creation,” Brown said. “There were jobs created by NAFTA and CAFTA, but when balanced against the jobs lost, the result has been massive job and trade deficits. President Obama should change course on trade policy and put American workers and American manufacturers first.”
In response, Brown proposed the Reciprocal Market Access Act, that requires fair, two-way trade that creates opportunities for American workers and companies. Brown’s bill would instruct trade negotiators to eliminate foreign market barriers before reducing U.S. tariffs and is designed to ensure that our trade negotiations achieve real and meaningful market access for American producers.
Like Portman, Brown backed the measure to attack China for currency manipulation.
“Last night (Wednesday), the Senate acknowledged what too many Ohio workers and manufacturers already know: that we are in a trade war,” Brown said. “Last night (Wednesday), we took steps to fight back, by passing the biggest bipartisan jobs bill this session of Congress — my bill to fight back against Chinese currency manipulation.”