WASHINGTON, DC— In advance of Senate consideration of pending free trade agreements, U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today outlined their Rebalancing America’s Trade and Globalization Agenda. Senators Casey and Brown discussed the pending U.S. – South Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and how it would affect American manufacturing and job creation efforts. The senators called for a robust trade enforcement package, including an extension of the 2009 Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) for Workers, before Congress considers additional free trade agreements.
“Pennsylvania workers have been hard hit by past trade deals that have sent their jobs overseas,” Senator Casey said. “Protecting Pennsylvania workers and the economic recovery are my top priorities. A strong version of TAA needs to be passed prior to consideration of any of these trade agreements.”
“While it’s important to address federal deficit, too many Washington politicians have turned a blind eye to the trade deficit. Unfortunately, working families in Ohio and our nation’s manufacturing industry are all too familiar with devastating effects of our ballooning trade deficit,” Senator Brown said. “How much bigger does our trade deficit need to get before Washington wakes up and realizes we need a change in direction? Let’s put American workers and American business first. Let’s instead focus on enforcing existing trade laws and helping workers retrain for new jobs before we pursue more-of-the-same style of trade agreements that have wreaked havoc on our economy.”
Senator Casey is the Chair of the Joint Economic Committee, which announced hearings scheduled for June 22 entitled, "Manufacturing in the USA: Why We Need a National Manufacturing Strategy."
Senator Brown led the House opposition to the Dominican Republic – Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) in 2005, falling just two votes shy of blocking the agreement after the vote was held open for nearly two hours. The author of the book Myths of Free Trade and described as “Congress’ leading proponent of American manufacturing,” Senator Brown also stood up to President Clinton during debate of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994.
Senators Casey and Brown have worked to extend TAA for Workers and the Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC), introducing legislation and seeking multiple unanimous consent agreements on the Senate floor.
Rebalancing America’s Trade and Globalization Agenda
American manufacturing has been a ticket to the middle class and helps lead economic recovery efforts. Unfortunately, over the last several years, the manufacturing sector of our economy has suffered disproportionately and millions of good jobs have been lost. Between February 2001 and February 2009, 4.7 million manufacturing jobs disappeared. Workers and manufacturers have found it increasingly difficult to compete in today’s global markets when the deck is stacked against them because of unfair trading practices. Yet manufacturing has helped to lead us out of past recessions, and must again be an essential part of our economic strategy.
Our trade laws were set up to establish a level playing field, but some of our trading partners have repeatedly found ways to circumvent these laws in order to gain an unfair advantage in trade with the United States. This has led to our record-breaking trade deficits, which threaten the long-term health of our economy, and have contributed to the migration of manufacturing jobs to factories overseas.
The U.S. - South Korea Free Trade Agreement, while improved by the Obama Administration, is not the template for future trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). In particular, the low domestic content rules, which require that South Korean cars must only have 35 percent domestic parts to be considered Korean, are a step backward from ensuring more products are “Made in America.”
Consideration of three pending trade agreements under the “fast track” rules prevents the Senate from adding proposals to the FTAs to address the areas in which U.S. trade laws currently fall short. Moving forward, Senators Brown and Casey will advocate for the following plan-of-action to rebalance our trade agenda.
President Obama has made significant improvements in trade enforcement and in holding trade partners, including China, accountable to its trade commitments. Yet our trade enforcement efforts still lag and the Administration has only initiated five cases. Meanwhile, China continues to manipulate its currency and discriminate against American goods and services. Foreign companies routinely avoid U.S. trade remedy laws by transshipping through other countries. Congress must work to:
- Crack down on currency manipulation by strengthening the anti-dumping and countervailing duty laws to consider undervalued currency in determining duty rates.
- Hold the executive branch more accountable to combating the discriminatory and unfair trade practices that are costing U.S. jobs.
- Provide the necessary resources to the appropriate agencies to monitor and enforce our trading partners’ international trade commitments.
The bipartisan Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act of 2011 would give the Obama Administration additional tools to address China’s currency manipulation.
The Trade Enforcement Priorities Act of 2011 would give the federal government more authority to address trade barriers that undermine American workers and domestic manufacturing by reinstating “Super 301” authority.
Trade Adjustment Assistance
TAA ensures that workers who lose their jobs and financial security as a result of globalization have an opportunity to transition to new jobs and emerging sectors of the economy. In 2009, Congress made important reforms to the program, improving efficiency and access to the Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC). Congress also expanded eligibility to service workers, and to workers whose jobs have been moved offshore, regardless of whether the United States has a bilateral trade agreement with the source country. These reforms expired February 12, 2011 and need to be renewed.
Reciprocal Market Access
Non-tariff barriers (examples: export subsidies and restrictions, technical barriers, and product standards) present significant hurdles for American exporters. The reason being that average U.S. tariff rates are low and America has few, if any, non-tariff barriers. Consequently, the leverage the U.S. has to obtain removal of non-tariff barriers is often limited to the tariff on imports into the United States. Our trade negotiators need added leverage to address this problem to level the playing field for American manufacturers. In future trade negotiations, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Administration should certify to Congress that reciprocal market access is secured before agreeing to modify existing duties on imported products.