Sen. Brown Statement on Trade Adjustment Assistance and Korea FTA

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Following news that extension of Trade Adjustment Assistance would be linked to the pending U.S.—South Korea Free Trade Agreement, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) issued the following statement: 

“Trade Adjustment Assistance should move through Congress on its own merit, along with the several bipartisan trade enforcement initiatives introduced in the Senate. It’s no surprise Americans are cynical over empty promises about jobs created through free trade agreements like Korea—particularly when these agreements are coupled with assistance for workers who lose their jobs to trade. If there was ever any doubt that free trade agreements cost American jobs, the Korea/TAA deal provides clarity. It’s time to put American jobs and American workers first by assisting laid-off workers and standing up to currency manipulation and other predatory trade practices.”

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. Along with Senator Robert P. Casey (D-PA), Brown has worked to extend TAA for Workers and the Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC), introducing legislation and seeking multiple unanimous consent agreements on the Senate floor. Brown is working to rebalance America’s trade and globalization agenda:

 Rebalancing America’s Trade and Globalization Agenda

American manufacturing has been ticket to the middle class and helps lead economic recovery efforts.  Unfortunately, over the last several years, the manufacturing sector of our economy has suffered disproportionately and millions of good jobs have been lost. Between February 2001 and February 2009, 4.7 million manufacturing jobs disappeared. Workers and manufacturers have found it increasingly difficult to compete in today’s global markets when the deck is stacked against them because of unfair trading practices. Yet manufacturing has helped to lead us out of past recessions, and must again be an essential part of our economic strategy.  

American trade laws were set up to establish a level playing field, but some trading partners have repeatedly found ways to circumvent these laws in order to gain an unfair advantage in trade with the United States.  This has led to record-breaking trade deficits, which threaten the long-term health of our economy, and have contributed to the migration of manufacturing jobs to factories overseas. 

The U.S.—South Korea Free Trade Agreement, while improved by the Obama Administration, is not the template for future trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). In particular, the low domestic content rules, which require that South Korean cars must only have 35 percent domestic parts to be considered Korean, are a step backward from ensuring that more products are Made in America.

Consideration of three pending trade agreements under the “fast track” rules prevents the Senate from adding proposals to the FTAs to address the areas in which U.S. trade laws currently fall short. Moving forward, Senator Brown will advocate for the following plan-of-action to rebalance our trade agenda.

 Trade Enforcement

President Obama has made significant improvements in trade enforcement and holding trade partners, including China, accountable to its trade commitments. Yet our trade enforcement efforts still lag and the Administration has only initiated five cases. Meanwhile, China continues to manipulate its currency and discriminate against American goods and services. Foreign companies routinely avoid U.S. trade remedy laws by transshipping through other countries. Congress must work to:

Crack down on currency manipulation by strengthening the anti-dumping and countervailing duty laws to consider undervalued currency in determining duty rates.

  • Hold the executive branch more accountable to combating the discriminatory and unfair trade practices that are costing U.S. jobs.
  • Provide the necessary resources to the appropriate agencies to monitor and enforce our trading partners’ international trade commitments.

The bipartisan Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act of 2011 would give the Obama Administration additional tools to address China’s currency manipulation.

The Trade Enforcement Priorities Act of 2011 would give the federal government more authority to address trade barriers that undermine American workers and domestic manufacturing by reinstating “Super 301” authority.

Trade Adjustment Assistance

TAA ensures that workers who lose their jobs and financial security as a result of globalization have an opportunity to transition to new jobs and emerging sectors of the economy. In 2009, Congress made important reforms to the program, improving efficiency, and improving access to the Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC). Congress also expanded eligibility to service workers, and to workers whose jobs have been moved offshore, regardless of whether the United States has a bilateral trade agreement with the source country.  These reforms expired February 12, 2011 and need to be renewed.

Reciprocal Market Access

Non-tariff barriers (examples: export subsidies and restrictions, technical barriers, and product standards) present significant hurdles for American exporters.  The reason being that average U.S. tariff rates are low and America has few, if any, non-tariff barriers. Consequently, the leverage the U.S. has to obtain removal of non-tariff barriers is often limited to the tariff on imports into the United States.  Our trade negotiators need added leverage to address this problem to level the playing field for American manufacturers.  In future trade negotiations, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Administration should certify to Congress that reciprocal market access is secured before agreeing to modify existing duties on imported products. 

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