As the United States Congress considers terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) issued the following statement after today's Senate Finance Committee hearing on the TPP's negotiations.
"The Trans-Pacific Partnership represents an opportunity for American workers and businesses to sell products and services to new markets, but the rules of the agreement will define whether the TPP begins a new era in fair trade policy," Brown said. "In ongoing TPP negotiations, American workers and businesses must be put first and our jobs not traded away in exchange for foreign policy goals."
The TPP is a proposed trade agreement that currently includes the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, Canada, and Mexico. Last month, Japan expressed its intent to join the TPP. Congress has the constitutional authority to set the terms of trade and commerce with foreign nations. The Administration is conducting the TPP talks using authority which officially lapsed in 2007, suggesting it will seek renewed Trade Promotion Authority, known as "Fast Track," to conclude TPP negotiations, as well as other trade initiatives.
Brown has long been an opponent of NAFTA-style agreements that undermine American workers and businesses. Last month Brown, U.S. Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), and U.S. Representative Sander Levin (MI-9), led a group of 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 potential 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.
Earlier this month, Brown led a group of seven Senators in urging Acting United States Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis to craft disciplinary language in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) 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 June 2012, Brown introduced the 21st Century Trade Agreements and Market Access Act that would have restored Congressional oversight to trade negotiations and ensure that American trading partners play by the same rules as the U.S. Brown announced the bill's introduction with business and labor leaders including James P. Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and Ford Vice President of International Government Affairs Stephen Biegun, each of whom discussed the need to prioritize support for American manufacturing in the TPP.
In November 2011, 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.
In October 2011, 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) negotiated by the Bush Administration 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 NAFTA in 1993.