WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) released the following statement after President Barack Obama signed into law three new trade pacts with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama. The President also signed into law an extension of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), a federal program that provides aid to workers who lose their jobs or whose work hours and wages are reduced as a result of foreign trade.

“It’s time to put American jobs and American workers first—and this extension of Trade Adjustment Assistance is long overdue. TAA will help workers in Ohio, and across America, get back on their feet and access retraining for new jobs when their jobs are shipped abroad—in many cases, as a result of NAFTA-style trade agreements,” Brown said. “These agreements haven’t led to net job creation. There were jobs created by NAFTA and CAFTA—but when balanced against the jobs lost, the result has been massive job and trade deficits. The mere fact that our federal government has a retraining program for workers affected by lopsided trade deals just goes to show that NAFTA-style agreements more often than not do not live up to the job-creation promises made by their supporters.

“President Obama should change course on trade policy and put Ohio workers and Ohio manufacturers first,” Brown added. “This Administration should apply benchmarks for the implementation of the trade deals—and beyond that, we must reorient our trade policy so that before we rush into these agreements, we take steps that will ensure that future trade agreements live up to the promises.”

Last week, Brown sent a letter urging President Obama to change course in trade policy and rewrite trade rules to put Ohio jobs and Ohio workers first. The letter also requested specific benchmarks on jobs as the U.S.-Korea agreement is implemented and called for a fundamental reorientation of U.S. trade policy.

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,” Brown also stood up to President Clinton during debate of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994.

The text of Brown’s letter to President Obama can be found below.

Dear President Obama:

I applaud your efforts to create good-paying jobs.  Your proposals to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure, increase enforcement of our trade laws, expand access to education, and reward businesses that hire new workers – including both veterans and the long-term unemployed – are to be lauded.  These efforts will create real jobs. 

However, I believe these efforts are at cross-purposes with much of your Administration’s trade agenda.  I would ask that you pursue a trade agenda that is consistent with your job creation goals.  Such an agenda must be based on the evidence of past trade deals.

Now that Congress is poised to approve the three trade agreements negotiated in large part by the Bush Administration, I am writing to request you change course on trade policy and align our trade policy with the interests of American workers and American manufacturers. Specifically, I request that your administration apply benchmarks for the implementation of these three Free Trade Agreements and consider legislation I have introduced on reciprocal market access as you negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Repeatedly, Presidents in both parties have promised our nation that free trade agreements – be it China Permanent Normal Trade Relations or the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) – would create jobs in the United States.  Time and again, these promises have been empty as good-paying manufacturing jobs have been lost.

That is why I would ask that do something that your predecessors failed to do:  reorient our trade policy so that we take steps to ensure that future trade agreements live up to the promises made on their behalf.

To that end, I would respectfully ask that your Administration, over the next two years, work with Congress to analyze the impact of these trade agreements on net domestic job creation, and apply benchmarks to measure actual import penetration.  This is especially important with respect to the South Korean market so that the data might inform U.S. policymakers as they consider the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Further, I urge you to consider supporting legislation, The Reciprocal Market Access Act, which would instruct our trade negotiators to eliminate foreign market barriers before reducing U.S. tariffs.  This bill, which I am introducing in the Senate and which has been introduced in the House by Representative Louise Slaughter, would also provide the U.S. Trade Representative with enforcement authority to reinstate tariffs if a foreign government fails to honor its commitment to remove barriers to products made in the United States.  And finally, the legislation instructs the International Trade Commission to conduct an assessment of the impact of a prospective trade agreement on market opportunities and barriers for U.S. products or services. 

American workers have seen too many trade agreements that fail to provide the jobs promised by their boosters.  I would ask that you refrain from negotiating any more agreements based on the failed approach to trade policy that has decimated our manufacturing base and left us ill-equipped to face the challenges of the global economy.