WASHINGTON, D.C. — With negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) slated to continue next week in California, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today joined business and labor leaders to announce a new effort to prevent another NAFTA-style agreement from undermining Ohio manufacturing and automotive jobs. He was joined by James P. Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, along with Ford Vice President of International Government Affairs Stephen Biegun, to discuss the need to prioritize support for American manufacturing in the TPP. Brown announced a new bill, the 21st Century Trade Agreements and Market Access Act, which would restore Congressional oversight to trade negotiations and ensure that American trading partners play by the same rules as the U.S.

“It’s time for an honest assessment of what our trade agreements have yielded and recognize where changes are in order. After we’ve seen more than five million jobs lost to our ‘trading partners,’ in NAFTA, CAFTA, and China, and with new export opportunities not enough to offset our trade deficit, it’s time for a new direction in trade policy,” Brown said. “The TPP is an opportunity to learn from the past. And that means demanding that our trade partners uphold the same labor, environmental, and human rights standards that we do.

“At a time when too many Ohioans are still looking for work, we cannot sign a lopsided trade agreement that tips the balance against American automakers and workers. The rules of trade, and the processes for negotiating the rules matter,” Brown continued. “Congress has a role to play, especially when trade agreements increasingly get into policy areas beyond just tariffs—such as services, procurement, and the environment. The 21st Century Trade Agreements and Market Access Act would help ensure that we protect our own interests, gain real market access—especially for autos and manufactured goods— and get the rules right.

“Too often we hear, in the final days of pushing passage of a trade agreement, how important the agreement is to strategic foreign policy interests – and we don’t hear about jobs, the middle class, and our standard of living. We should export American products, not American jobs,” Brown concluded.

The TPP is a proposed trade agreement that would link several countries in North, Central, and South America with countries in the Asia-Pacific. In addition to the United States, the current TPP countries are Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam; Canada, Mexico, and Japan have also announced their intent to join the TPP. While Congress has the constitutional authority to regulate trade and commerce with foreign nations, for the past several decades, Congress has delegated to the executive branch the authority to select trading partners, negotiate, and sign new trade deals before it votes on the matter. The 21st Century Trade Agreements and Market Access Act would delegate new authority to the Administration to negotiate new trade deals while re-asserting the role of Congressional oversight into the substance of negotiations.

Last year, Brown sent a letter to President Obama raising concerns over the existing automotive trade deficit with Japan and seeking more support for American manufacturing in the TPP. In the letter, Brown requested that the President address a variety of discriminatory policies before allowing Japan to join the TPP, including nontariff barriers and currency manipulation. Brown noted that Japan has instituted a variety of policies that have made it difficult for American and foreign automakers to gain a foothold in the Japanese market. “Japan is the world’s third-largest auto market. Yet despite low or zero tariffs, there are a variety of nontariff barriers that have impeded access to Japan’s automobile and auto parts market, and overall sales of American-made vehicles and parts in Japan remain low,” Brown wrote. “The 2011 National Trade Estimates report – issued by the Office of U.S. Trade Representative – notes data from the Japan Automobile Importers Association (JAIA) that shows registrations in Japan of U.S.-produced motor vehicles fell from 12,666 units in 2008 to 9,314 units in 2009.”

Brown’s legislation would also require additional compliance reporting and streamline trade and export promotion activities to enable more U.S. producers, ranchers, and small businesses opportunity to reach new markets. Specifically, the bill would also require the following reports be submitted to Congress, in some cases amongst other parties, regarding potential and existing trade agreements:

  • A report submitted by the President on the country (or countries) which the Administration intends to negotiate a trade agreement with or is currently in the process of negotiating a trade agreement, including on the country’s human rights record, enforcement of international labor rights and environment laws, and other fair trade practices.
  • A report submitted by the U.S. International Trade Commission on market access assessments including export opportunities and challenges, as well as the tariff and non-tariff barriers identified by U.S. producers, and information on the purchasing power of a potential trading partner.
  • An annual report by the USTR on the progress of commitments a trade agreement partner makes or on upcoming deadlines for commitments, along with subsequent effects of these commitments.

In addition, the 21st Century Trade Agreements and Market Access Act would reform the trade policymaking process by setting binding negotiating objectives that would have to be met and verified by Congress before an administration signs the agreement.

Last year, 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. He 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 1993.