I have spent the past two and a half decades fighting for a trade agenda that puts American workers first and allows Ohio companies to compete on a level playing field. That means holding countries like China accountable when they cheat the rules.
We had several big victories in our fight for Ohio workers this month.
First, the International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled that Whirlpool – which has plants in Clyde, Greenville, Findlay, Marion, and Ottawa – and its workers have been harmed by the flood of unfairly traded washing machine imports from China.
Last October, my Ohio colleague Senator Rob Portman and I wrote to the Secretary of Commerce, urging her to get tough on Chinese companies that weren’t playing by the rules and were flooding the market with unfairly-traded washing machines. And I testified at the ITC in December on behalf of our American manufacturers, pushing to get penalties applied to Chinese washer imports.
The ITC’s decision this month will level the playing field for Whirlpool workers across Ohio whose jobs have been threatened for years by washing machine imports from China.
Also in January, the U.S. Trade Representative announced he would heed Senator Portman’s and my call to launch a case against China in the World Trade Organization, to crack down on cheating in the aluminum industry.
When China drives down aluminum costs by breaking the rules, Ohio workers and manufacturers pay the price. Thousands have already lost jobs because China has flooded the market with unfairly subsidized aluminum. It’s past time we get tough on these violations before more Ohio workers lose their jobs.
And this week, President Trump heeded my call to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and to begin the conversation on renegotiating NAFTA. I reached out to him immediately following November’s election offering to work with the president to overhaul our trade policy.
These are all important steps to creating a level playing field for Ohio workers in all industries. But we can’t let up.
We know how important it is to give American businesses the tools they need to fight unfair trade practices. In 2014 and 2015, I introduced the Leveling the Playing Field Act. Senator Portman and I worked across the aisle to pass this law – the most significant improvements to our trade enforcement laws in more than a decade.
And that law led directly to key wins for our steel industry, including wins in cases filed by companies with plants in Ohio, like Nucor, U.S. Steel, ArcelorMittal, and AK Steel, which employ more than 8,200 Ohioans. In many of these cases, China was one of the biggest offenders and will now be forced to pay the consequences.
We need a complete reset of our trade relationship with China, to make it clear they can no longer get away with this cheating – whether it’s in the aluminum or steel or any other industry.
Last fall, after the presidential election, I sent a letter to President-elect Trump outlining ways we could work together to overhaul our trade policy, particularly with respect to China. I called on him to fight currency manipulation, and commit to maintaining China’s nonmarket economy status. The president-elect responded with a personal note, agreeing that we cannot let our workers down.
Ohio workers are expecting a trade policy that takes their concerns seriously – that protects our workers and creates jobs here at home. To do that, we need to ensure our trading partners play by the rules – and we need to crack down on cheating wherever and whenever it happens. We know Ohio workers can compete with anyone in the world – we need to do our part and ensure they have a truly level playing field.