In more than a quarter-century, Ohio’s senior senator never has found an American trade agreement he can support — until now.
Pro-labor U.S. Sen Sherrod Brown apparently — and finally — has found a U.S. trade agreement he can support.
The Ohio Democrat said Wednesday that he’s inclined to support the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, after House Democrats agreed to changes to advance the bill to anticipated floor votes.
During his service in the U.S. House from 1993 to 2007 and in the Senate since, Brown famously has refused to approve any major American trade agreement, denouncing them as unfair to U.S. workers.
What started out as a Trump administration proposal representing a new “NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and a betrayal of workers,” the new USMCA trade agreement has been amended, Brown said, to apparently accommodate his concerns.
“I like what I have seen so far, but I want to see the language on labor enforcement,” Brown said in a conference call with reporters. “If the language is what I’ve been led to believe, I’m inclined to support it.”
Brown said he insisted on “strong labor protection standards” and “doing something for American workers” to lead to fewer U.S. jobs outsourced to other countries and strengthened standards to protect employees in the workplace and raise workers’ standards of living, including in Mexico.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, also welcomed House Democrats’ approval of terms of the trade agreement Tuesday, saying it would bolster employment and exports in Ohio, notably for agriculture and the state’s auto and steel industries.
The bill, for example, opens Canadian markets to more dairy products and requires the use of more North American-made steel and parts in car and truck production.
Canada is Ohio’s largest export market at $21.2 billion a year (39% of the state’s total), with Mexico second at $6.9 billion. Industrial machinery, vehicles and parts and aircraft parts are the state’s largest export products.
Brown said the trade agreement apparently will not reach a vote in the Senate, according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, until after the chamber has conducted the anticipated impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.
Brown objected to the characterization by Trump and U.S. Attorney General William Barr of a report by a Department of Justice inspector general finding that the FBI investigation of possible Russian influence in Trump’s campaign was appropriate and not grounded in political bias.
Barr has disagreed with the inspector general’s conclusions, saying he believed the FBI inappropriately spied on the Trump campaign.
“It’s much more of the same ... there’s no question the president tried to bribe a foreign leader ... it’s pretty clear they want to change the subject.
“It’s pretty clear they are covering up for this president – even the attorney general, who’s supposed to represent the United States not the president as a private client,” Brown said. “We want to make sure people are held accountable for what they have done here and so far they haven’t been.”