Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland on Wednesday denounced “unfair” U.S. trade deals that he said have cost American jobs and blamed his opponent, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, for voting in favor of eight trade deals.
“I don’t think there is a single issue that more clearly delineates a difference between Rob Portman and Ted Strickland than our positions on trade,” said Strickland, speaking in front of the mostly vacant lot that once housed a Delphi Corp. plant on West Third Street in Dayton.
“Rob Portman has never met a trade deal he didn’t embrace. I have consistently stood for American workers and American companies in resisting these unfair trade deals.”
Strickland, a Democrat seeking to unseat Portman, said he voted against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and opposes the current proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.
Portman voted for NAFTA and last year voted to give President Barack Obama fast-track negotiating authority on TPP. Portman now says he can’t support TPP in its current form, which has yet to be voted on by Congress.
A Portman campaign spokeswoman criticized Strickland for the jobs lost in Ohio during his time as governor from 2007-2011.
“Ted Strickland never met a job he couldn’t outsource to another state or country” Portman spokeswoman Michawn Rich said.
“Ted can’t hide from the fact that while he was in Congress he refused to hold China accountable for unfair trade practices,” said Rich, adding that Strickland opened a trade office in China when he was governor. “On the other hand, Rob Portman is a leader when it comes to creating jobs. He works hard every day fighting for pro-growth policies of higher wages and more Ohio jobs.”
Strickland appeared in Dayton with about 25 supporters after speaking earlier in Toledo and Lima in what he calls his “No More Terrible Trade Deals Tour.”
Strickland said Portman is folding himself into “a pretzel” by backing off from what Strickland said was earlier support of the TPP because he knows how unpopular trade agreements have become with Americans tired of seeing jobs outsourced. Strickland also said Portman’s tenure as trade representative for President George W. Bush was notable for the growth in the trade deficit with China.
“The choice is between a dedicated outsourcer, who is China’s best senator, or me,” said Strickland, who stated that he has fought against bad trade deals “from the time I was in the U.S. House of Representatives and currently. This is a big deal for Ohio and it’s a big deal for Ohio workers.”
On Feb. 4 the Washington Post reported that when the fast-track status was approved by the Senate last year it was considered a “bellwether of support” for the trade pact. But Rich said Portman has never supported TPP.
She said Portman has “consistently laid out his concerns” on the Pacific trade proposal and argued that it should address currency manipulation, auto exports to Japan and protection for U.S. biologics. She said his support for fast track on TPP included fighting for language on currency manipulation that she said the final deal didn’t address.
“And the final TPP agreement’s lack of strong currency manipulation protections is one of the reasons Portman opposes it,” Rich said.
Strickland said the U.S. trade agreements reduce the barriers to trade between the U.S. and other countries without requiring those countries to improve poor environmental and worker safety standards. Combined with the low wages in those countries, the trade provisions have led to an exodus of American companies — a “race to the bottom” — that he said has severely damaged the ability of Americans to earn a living wage.
He said the agreements have led to more exports of products from the United States but there is not a net gain in jobs for Ohioans. Strickland said he supports trade, but it must be fair.
“I think American workers need a break,” Strickland said. “We’ve seen our good paying, living wage jobs ship offshore in the chase for cheap labor and lax environmental conditions. It’s time we put a stop to it.”
If elected Strickland said he would push to renegotiate, rather than scrap, current trade deals.
“I’m not talking about this as Donald Trump does, implying that he’ll just go back and tear up the agreement,” Strickland said.
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