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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today pressed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the best way to stop the offshoring of Ohio jobs to Mexico.
Last month, Brown sent a four-point plan for NAFTA renegotiation to President Trump, which calls for strong anti-outsourcing provisions. Brown said labor and environmental standards should be agreed to by both countries, implemented, and enforced before NAFTA talks can start. History shows that without upfront commitments, these standards never get implemented or enforced, and corporations will continue to offshore jobs to countries with lower standards.
“We know what causes outsourcing: low wages, exploited workers, and weak or non-existent environmental protections that encourage companies to relocate to other countries where it’s cheaper to do business. It’s a race to the bottom,” said Brown. “We cannot stop the flow of jobs to Mexico without addressing Mexican labor standards. Let me just say that I know the talks could begin in a matter of weeks, but the agreement’s impacts are long-term. If we don’t take this moment to enforce strong anti-outsourcing provisions up front, more Ohio workers will lose their jobs.”
Brown held a series of roundtables with Ohio workers in recent months to get their input on what the priorities should be for a renegotiated NAFTA. His four-point NAFTA plan builds on Brown’s efforts to work with President Trump to fulfill the President’s campaign promises on trade.
Immediately after President Trump’s election, Brown reached out to his transition team to offer his help on retooling U.S. trade policy. Brown wrote to Trump in November offering specific steps to work together on trade and Trump responded with a handwritten note. Since then, Brown has spoken with the President about Buy American and has had multiple conversations with top White House trade advisers, including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
Brown opposed NAFTA when it was first passed. He now sits on the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over trade agreements.
Brown’s Four-Point Plan for Securing the Best Deal for American Workers
1. SECURE ANTI-OUTSOURCING AND BUY AMERICA PROVISIONS UP FRONT
We know what causes outsourcing: low wages, exploited workers and weak, or non-existent, environmental protections in other countries that encourage companies to relocate where it’s cheaper to do business. This has created a race to the bottom that hurts all workers, brings down wages and jeopardizes clean air and water. So, Brown’s plan calls on the Administration to secure commitments from Mexico and Canada to enforce strict worker and environmental protections before even sitting down at the negotiating table.
In the past, U.S. trade negotiators have used up their leverage without securing strong enough standards to protect American jobs. By securing strong anti-outsourcing provisions up front, Brown’s plan ensures American jobs aren’t up for negotiation.
In addition to tough worker and environmental protections, Brown’s plan insists that Mexico and Canada agree up front that Buy America standards will not be weakened in negotiations.
2. DON’T PIT AMERICAN WORKERS AND INDUSTRIES AGAINST EACH OTHER IN THE NEGOTIATIONS
Too often, U.S. trade negotiators have pitted American workers and industries against each other as bargaining chips in the negotiation. For example, auto industry priorities get weighed against the needs of farmers. American workers shouldn’t be horse-traded simply for the sake of cutting a deal. A renegotiated NAFTA must be a good deal for all workers.
So, Brown’s plan calls on the White House to develop individualized negotiation strategies for manufacturing sectors that have been hurt by outsourcing. Identifying sectors that are susceptible to outsourcing and developing plans to address their unique needs and vulnerabilities in advance will ensure American workers and industries aren’t sacrificed during negotiations.
3. BUILD ENFORCEMENT TOOLS THAT FAVOR AMERICAN WORKERS, NOT FOREIGN CORPORATIONS, WHEN THE DEAL IS VIOLATED
Even good trade deals don’t mean anything if they aren’t enforced. For too long, U.S. free trade agreements have included ineffective procedures for workers to challenge violations and super-sized procedures for corporations. Investor-state dispute settlement provisions have created private, C-suite courts that allow foreign corporations to undermine U.S. laws and take advantage of American workers, while workers wait years for trade violations to be addressed – if they are addressed at all.
Brown’s plan would do away with special courts for corporations and create a better process for workers to get remedies if Mexico and Canada violate the agreement.
4. INCLUDE WORKERS IN THE NEGOTIATIONS
Time after time, we’ve seen corporate lobbyists writing trade deals behind closed doors, while American workers are locked out.
Brown’s plan calls on the White House to make U.S. proposals public before and after each negotiating round and give workers, consumers and public interest advocates equal representation with corporations on Trade Advisory Committees that wield special influence in negotiations.