WASHINGTON, D.C.—With the release of new poll today showing that Americans believe that the strength of the economy is strongly tied to the strength of our manufacturing industry, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to devote greater attention to the needs of domestic manufacturers as he spearheads a consolidation and reorganization of the Administration’s trade agencies.
The study, conducted for the Alliance for American Manufacturing, showed that Americans want Washington to focus on bringing back manufacturing jobs; that they see manufacturing as key to our nation’s economic strength; and that they strongly support the implementation of a National Manufacturing Strategy. Brown is the author of the bipartisan National Manufacturing Strategy Act of 2011, legislation aimed at bolstering the competitiveness of the American manufacturing industry. The goals of the Strategy are to increase manufacturing jobs, identify emerging technologies to strengthen U.S. competitiveness, and strengthen the manufacturing sectors in which the U.S. is most competitive.
“The recovery of our manufacturing industry is critical to our country’s economic recovery. Historically, the manufacturing sector has provided Americans with good-paying, stable jobs—a reliable pathway to the middle class. It’s no wonder that with factories closing down and jobs going to China and Mexico that Americans think that Washington isn’t doing enough to save this vital industry,” Brown said. “But the good news is that we can work to reverse the damage—by closing loopholes for companies that ship jobs abroad and giving businesses strong incentives to Make It In America. We should be vigorously enforcing our trade laws—particularly with countries like China—and cracking down on currency manipulation and duty evasion. And finally, as one of the only developed nations without one, we must implement a National Manufacturing Strategy. A complete economic recovery requires a sustained strategy to ensure long-term job growth and job creation.”
According to the American Alliance for Manufacturing, the study included eight focus groups nationwide, as well as a random national survey of 1,202 likely voters. The study found that across the partisan spectrum, Democratic and Republican voters ranked job creation and rebuilding the nation’s manufacturing base at the top of their list of priorities. In addition, 94% of voters say creating manufacturing jobs is either “one of the most important” things government can do or “very important;” 90% support Buy American policies “to ensure that taxpayer-funded government projects use only U.S.-made goods and supplies wherever possible;” and 95% favor keeping “America’s trade laws strong and strictly enforced to provide a level playing field for our workers and businesses.”
Earlier this month, GAO released a report—requested by Brown and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) — entitled Office of Manufacturing and Services Could Better Measure and Communicate Its Contributions to Trade Policy. At the time of requesting the report, Brown was serving as Chairman of the U.S. Senate Banking, House, and Urban Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Policy, where he chaired nine hearings on the state of American manufacturing industry. A copy of the GAO report can be found here.
A full copy of the letter to the President is below.
Dear Mr. President:
In your State of the Union address, you called for consolidating and reorganizing the Administration’s trade agencies. To that end, you tasked the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to examine the consolidation of export and trade offices managed primarily by the Office of U.S. Trade Representative and the Commerce Department.
During this process, I urge you to ensure that this reorganization focuses not only upon export-related efforts but also the non-export policy needs of domestic manufacturers. Currently, the Office of Manufacturing and Services (MAS) is the designated office for supporting the Secretary of Commerce in his role as the federal government’s chief advocate for American manufacturing.
This office is within the International Trade Administration (ITA) and primarily supports sectors that have a direct connection to exports or impact trade flows. With more than 90 percent of the world’s customers outside the United States, this focus on exports is clearly a central plank in a national manufacturing strategy and efforts.
However, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), in a report I requested, found that MAS set an internal goal for 75 percent of its resources to support the National Export Initiative (NEI).
This singular focus upon exports is of great concern, especially when greater challenges face the manufacturing sector than export barriers, including: tax issues; access to credit and financing for viable producers; workforce training; and regulations. These challenges take on new urgency considering that from 2000-2009, fifteen of the nineteen aggregate-level U.S. manufacturing sectors shrank in output while manufacturing jobs fell by 6.1 million, or 34 percent.
You have given manufacturing policy significant attention, as outlined in the December 2010 “Framework to Revitalize American Manufacturing” and as evident in your recently announced Advanced Manufacturing Partnership. Further, your efforts to restructure the auto industry have saved thousands of jobs in my state and throughout the country, and now we are seeing new jobs created in the auto sector.
I fully support and encourage your efforts, but request that you consider a comprehensive and sustainable structure within the Commerce Department to serve as the voice for domestic manufacturers and the integrator of Federal agency manufacturing efforts within yours and future Administrations. I have proposed legislation that will help to achieve these goals, which with your support has the potential to create a more cohesive and coordinated approach to promoting U.S. manufacturers.