Brown: Rising Trade Deficit Shows that TAA Extension and Currency Legislation Must be Voted On
WASHINGTON, D.C.—In the wake of a Senate stalemate over linking Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) to pending free trade agreements with Korea, Panama, and Colombia, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka held a news conference call today to outline whyCongress should focus on extending TAA, enforcing trade laws, and addressing currency manipulation before pursuing more-of-the-same free trade agreements that have cost Ohio thousands of jobs since 1994.
“Thousands of Ohio workers have watched their jobs move to Mexico or Central America. With a fragile economic recovery, now is not the time to pass more-of-the-same trade agreements that have shipped jobs overseas and undermined Ohio manufacturing. Taking care of Ohio and American workers should be our first priority,” Sen. Brown said. “That means passing a long-term extension of Trade Adjustment Assistance to keep Ohio workers and manufacturers competitive and ensure that they can get retrained for 21st-century jobs.
“And while much of our national discussion lately has centered around our budget deficit, our ballooning trade deficit deserves attention too. We must strengthen our trade law enforcement by addressing China’s flagrant currency manipulation and other violations,” Brown continued.
“We need a new approach to trade, not the same broken deals that send jobs offshore and benefit multinationals but not working people,” said AFL-CIO President Trumka. “If we want an economic future that is better than our past, we need to use a jobs lens to look honestly at the specific rules in our own trade laws and trade agreements, the partners we choose and their values. Old Bush-era deals are not the answer. We can and must do better to create good jobs here at home that fuel our economic growth and rebuild our economy.”
On the call, Brown and Trumka outlined the need for an extension of Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers—a federal program that provides aid to workers who lose their jobs or whose work hours and wages are reduced as a result of increased imports. The program provides training for employment in another job or career, income support, job search allowances, and relocation allowances. Qualified workers may quickly return to employment through a combination of these services.
Brown released a county-by-county report showing the number of displaced Ohio workers who have qualified for TAA since the 1994 passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the 2005 passage of the Dominican Republic—Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Nearly 40,000 displaced Ohio workers have qualified for TAA since 1994.
Recently, Brown led forty-one U.S. Senators in urging President Barack Obama not to submit any free trade agreements to Congress—including pending agreements for Colombia, Panama, and South Korea—until Congress agrees to extend a long-term extension of TAA, including the 2009 bipartisan reforms.
Brown also outlined two pieces of legislation he has introduced this Congress to allow U.S. companies to remain competitive and create jobs in the face of unfair competition from foreign manufacturers.
- Legislation Addressing China’s Currency Manipulation: Authored with Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act directs the U.S. Department of Commerce to treat currency undervaluation as a prohibited export subsidy, would ensure the government is equipped to respond on behalf of American workers and manufacturers by imposing countervailing duties on subsidized exports from countries like China. Brown and Snowe’s bill is similar to a measure passed in 111th Congress, H.R. 2378, the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act of 2010, which passed in 2010 by a vote of 348-79, including 99 Republicans.
- Stand-Alone Legislation Extending TAA for Five Years: Last week, Brown and Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced legislation that would extend TAA at 2009 levels for five years, until December 31, 2016. In 2009, Congress made important reforms to the program, improving efficiency, and improving access to the Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC). Congress also expanded eligibility to service workers, and to workers whose jobs have been moved offshore, regardless of whether the United States has a bilateral trade agreement with the source country. These reforms expired February 12, 2011 and need to be renewed.