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"Voinovich's View" -- Stop Trading Blame

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Date:
Location: Unknown

Since coming to the United States Senate, I have continued my work to grow jobs in the state of Ohio. As a governor and senator, I've seen how important exporting is for job creation, but I am increasingly concerned that some have demagogued this issue for political gain, trying to blame all of our nation's economic trouble on trade, rather than on policy failures that are the true causes of our economic woes. Such views fail to recognize the importance of trade to the Ohio's economy and the risks that demonizing our trading partners can have on economic growth.

Trade provides significant benefits to Ohio. For example, Ohio workers send $14 billion worth of goods to Canada every year. In 2009, Ohio's businesses exported $34.1 billion in merchandise. In 2009, trade led to 1,447,900 jobs that wouldn't be here but for trade and the export of $10 billion worth of transportation equipment, $5 billion worth of machinery and $4.5 billion worth of chemicals by Ohio companies. That is cash flowing into Ohio wallets and jobs for Ohio's workers.

And it isn't just manufacturing that benefits. Ohio farmers exported $2.7 billion worth of agricultural goods. That is almost 40 percent of our state's total agricultural output and represents a 69 percent increase in exports over the last five years.

Increased trade has been a longer term trend. While I was governor, I made nine Ohio Business, Trade and Investment Missions accompanied by 175 businesses. These trips resulted in increased exports of Ohio products, including a 275 percent increase in exports to Argentina. Trade with our NAFTA partner Canada increased nearly 90 percent from 1991 to 1996. NAFTA has received a lot of political bashing, but those in leadership positions know it is not to blame for Ohio's economic problems. In fact in a 2008 magazine article, Governor Strickland, like governors before him, recognized the threat of NAFTA-bashing, saying, "NAFTA is a symbol to the people who are dislocated or in fear of losing their jobs, and it has achieved a significance well beyond its current importance."

Trade works, but we must work to make sure that our global partners play by the rules and sometimes we just need to ask for some breathing room. For example, in 2001, I pushed President Bush to bring what is called a 201 action against steel imports. This 2001 action provided a 20-month hiatus from lower cost imported steel, giving the U.S. industry time to restructure to compete in the global economy.

In addition our nation needs to ensure that foreign companies aren't stealing our best ideas and new innovations, which often result in the best new jobs. Intellectual property (IP) theft is a substantial and growing economic threat, with American companies losing around $250 billion dollars a year, and American workers losing about 750,000 jobs. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has estimated that the U.S. auto industry could hire 200,000 more workers if the sale of counterfeit auto parts were eliminated. That is why I joined with Senator Evan Bayh to pass the PRO-IP act, which will better protect our most innovative companies as they do business in the global market and will ensure that the administration gives this new law the priority it deserves.

Unfortunately, while there are many benefits to trade, we can't ignore the reality that there are workers whose jobs are lost as a result. If you ask those in charge of federal training programs, they will tell you that the Workforce Investment Act is not working. For these workers, and the many other workers who lose their jobs for a variety of reasons, all levels of government must do a much better job on helping them retrain for 21st century jobs.

For example, I have read and heard a number of stories about how today good manufacturing jobs are going unfilled due to a lack of qualified workers. This is a shameful situation given Ohio's dire economic situation. This is where our existing continuing education efforts have failed, and why I introduced the Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development Act of 2008 to help improve our worker training programs. Ohio has wonderful assets when it comes to worker retraining, but we need to better use those assets. For example, Ohio's community colleges and vocations schools are assets that must be better used to help workers find a better, more secure, future.

Trade is not to blame for the state of today's economy. Expansive health care mandates, overregulation, an unsustainable federal budget deficit, uncertainty over cap and trade, a nonexistent energy policy, the failure to retrain our workforce for the 21st Century, an unaccountable public school system, and uncertainty surrounding the U.S tax system result in an economic climate where businesses are hesitant to grow and expand. We need to instill confidence in the economy by expanding export opportunities for Ohio businesses.

We are facing many daunting challenges as a nation -- but none is bigger than turning around our economy, growing jobs and helping people survive day to day. That is why I have done everything in my power to bring good jobs to Ohio.


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