I have spent the past two decades fighting bad trade deals that cost Ohio jobs. One of my first acts as a member of Congress was helping lead the charge against NAFTA, and that dedication to standing up for Ohio workers hasn’t changed, regardless of who is in the White House.
Donald Trump made a lot of big promises during this campaign, including to overhaul our trade policy and renegotiate NAFTA within his first 100 days in office. I’m calling on him to make good on those promises — and I’m going to hold him accountable to Ohio workers every step of the way.
Within a week of Election Day, I spoke with the head of trade policy on the President-Elect’s transition team, and I told him I have three priorities: renegotiating NAFTA, pulling out of TPP, and strengthening trade enforcement to crack down on China’s cheating and support American steel jobs. And I followed up that conversation with a letter directly to President-Elect Trump.
We want more trade — Ohio businesses, including our auto supply chain, rely on trade with our neighbors. But trade should happen on a truly level playing field, and that’s not what we have right now.
First, Donald Trump needs to make good on his commitment to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. TPP replicated and amplified all of NAFTA’s problems, and voters sent a clear mandate to kill TPP.
We then need to turn our attention to overhauling our existing trade agreements, including NAFTA, and to stepping up trade enforcement.
No trade deal should give multinational corporations the power to bypass American laws, and we need to renegotiate the “rules of origin” in NAFTA. Rules of origin determine how much of a product, like a car, has to be made in a country to qualify for the benefits of the agreement. Those rules need to be designed to protect American jobs, not Chinese companies.
We also must incorporate stronger protections for workers and our environment into NAFTA, so that all companies are playing by the same rules. We shouldn’t make it easy for corporations to pick up and move to Mexico, where they know they can pay workers pennies on the dollar.
On top of that, we need to do more to enforce the laws we already have — laws China and other countries are breaking, devastating our steel industry. That means a reset of our trade relationship with China. China can no longer get away with cheating. We need to fight currency manipulation, crack down on China’s unfair trade practices, and commit to maintaining China’s nonmarket economy status.
I’ve stood up to presidents of both parties on trade, and now I’m willing to work with President Trump to hold him accountable for his promises to Ohio workers. Ohio workers are expecting a trade policy that takes their concerns seriously — that protects our workers and creates jobs here at home.
The writer is a U.S. senator from Ohio.