Following Call for Fast Track Authority During State of The Union Address, Brown Urges Administration to Stand Up for American Workers and Businesses

Brown Has Introduced Package of Legislative Proposals to Ensure a Level Playing Field for American Industries and Workers

WASHINGTON, D.C. –– U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) released the following statement in response to President Obama’s call for fast track authority in order to pursue new trade deals during tonight’s State of the Union address.

“Before we rush to any more NAFTA-style trade deals, we need to invest in American jobs first,” Brown said. “That means our nation must invest in the modern transportation infrastructure necessary to create jobs and ensure our global competitiveness. We must also establish a new framework for negotiating trade deals that includes enforceable currency measures, fair labor standards, and addresses investor state provisions. It’s time to put an end to the kind of trade deals that have sold out both American workers and American manufacturers.”

Congress has the constitutional authority to set the terms of trade and commerce with foreign nations. The Administration is conducting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks under the leadership of the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), using authority which officially lapsed in 2007. This suggests that the Administration will seek renewed Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), known as “Fast Track,” to conclude TPP and TTIP negotiations, as well as other trade initiatives.

The TPP is a proposed trade agreement that currently includes the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. TTIP is a proposed trade agreement between the United States and the EU that began its first round of negotiations in July 2013.

Last year, Brown introduced legislation that would improve the ability of the U.S. to crack down on unfair foreign competition resulting from violations of trade law. The Leveling the Playing Field Act would restore strength to antidumping and countervailing laws used by American companies  by codifying existing Commerce Department practices and overturning erroneous court decisions that curtail the agency’s authority.

Brown has also urged USTR Ambassador Froman to include protections to address “investor state” provisions that would allow multinational corporations—like Big Tobacco companies—to use the trade agreement to undermine public health efforts. Every year, 443,000 people are killed as a result of tobacco use in the United States alone. Accordingly, the TPP should explicitly recognize the unique health and regulatory status of tobacco products and ensure that TPP nations are able to fully implement and enforce tobacco control legislation like the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009.

Brown has led the fight against currency manipulation in the Senate. He was the lead sponsor of a bipartisan bill that would stand up for American manufacturers by punishing countries like China that cheat by manipulating currency. Brown’s bipartisan legislation, the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act, would use U.S. trade law to counter the economic harm to American manufacturers caused when countries unfairly undervalue their currency to give their exports an unfair price advantage. The bill would provide consequences for countries that fail to adopt appropriate policies to eliminate currency misalignment—all without adding a dime to the federal budget. Brown has also urged the Administration to include protections against currency manipulation in TPP. In February 2014, Brown unveiled a new report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) which showed that cracking down on currency manipulation could reduce the U.S. trade deficit by as much as $500 billion within three years, increase GDP by as much as $720 billion, and create as many as 5.8 million American jobs—all while reducing the federal budget by as much as $266 billion. In September 2013, Brown wrote to Froman, citing the need to crack down on currency manipulators like Japan when they unfairly undervalue their currency to give their exports an unfair price advantage over American manufactured goods.

In January 2014, Brown joined four of his colleagues on the Senate Finance Committee in urging the USTR to work directly with them and other members of Congress in constructing a consultation framework in advance of any consideration of TPA. The five Senate Finance Committee members cited the significance of the TPP and TTIP as reasons for Congress and President Obama to form a true partnership in order for the United States to negotiate deals advantageous to American interests.  

In April 2013, Brown led a group of seven Senators in urging the USTR to craft disciplinary language in the TTP negotiations for actions taken by state-owned enterprises that discriminate and distort free markets. Failing to craft disciplinary language for these actions, Brown and his colleagues argued, would hurt the American economy and its workers and businesses by adversely affecting the United States’ ability to fairly compete in foreign markets as new nations enter the TPP.

In March 2013, Brown joined U.S. Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) and U.S. Representative Sander Levin (MI-9) and 49 of their colleagues in urging President Obama to put the best interests of American workers and businesses first as negotiations continued with Japan on its entry to the TPP. Brown and his colleagues specifically cited Japan’s longstanding efforts to impose trade barriers and block U.S. exports as actions that have hurt the American economy, domestic job creation, and specifically its auto-industry.

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 NAFTA in 1993.

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