Promoting Fair Trade
When crafting trade deals, Congress must prioritize America’s interests above all else...
...and ultimately ensure that Americans have access to safe, good-paying jobs. Americans all across the country, including right here in Ohio, have begun to face the grim reality that the economic ladder leading to the middle class is broken. By understanding the complexities of international trade and using its economic power to our advantage, I will support policies to repair that ladder, ensuring that every Ohioan has the opportunity to achieve the American Dream.
International Trade: The Basics
Even for those who have dedicated their lives to studying international trade, this topic is complex, confusing, and difficult to pin down. If leveraged carefully, international trade deals can create jobs right here in Ohio. However, bad trade deals can discourage economic investment at home. Smart negotiators recognize both of these realities, and I know that a dynamic solution to the question of free trade will encourage job creation and support economic growth.
Some, like President Trump, choose to flatten the concept of international trade into a zero-sum game, electing to focus on trade as a nation’s trade balance rather than the picture as a whole, creating misleading narratives about the actual benefits and costs of international trade. For example, President Trump has attacked the trade balance as a sign of a weak American economy, and he continues to champion harmful policies aimed at addressing the trade imbalance. Many economists disagree, because historically, the US trade deficit grows when the economy is growing and creating jobs, not the other way around.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which began on January 1st, 1994, created one of the world’s largest free trade zones. In addition to spurring economic growth and creating jobs domestically in the United States, it also significantly increased trade between the United States, Mexico, and Canada. In addition, NAFTA has dramatically lowered prices on a variety of different products for US consumers, ranging from oil to agricultural goods.
Despite these obvious benefits for the United States, NAFTA caused a decrease in the quality of working conditions in Mexico and saw many American businesses threaten to relocate there to save money. To address these issues and guarantee that the US benefits from NAFTA, it’s crucial that the United States ensures that member countries are engaging in responsible trade practices. I pledge to help Congress engage in productive -- not antagonistic -- dialogue with our allies in Canada and Mexico, to renegotiate outdated aspects of NAFTA. We can achieve this by looking at the facts in order to benefit all Americans: businesses, workers, and consumers alike.
Automation and Social Mobility
The Great Recession of 2007-08 crippled the American economy, resulting in a loss of almost 9 million jobs. A decade later we are still recovering. Additionally, over the last two decades increased technological advancement and automation have drastically altered the job market, leading to massive losses in working class manufacturing jobs -- a reality known all too well here in Ohio.
By recognizing that automation, not international trade, poses the most imminent threat to American workers, I will begin to champion policy initiatives that address the root causes of economic deprivation, enacting change that will increase the quality of life for all hard-working Americans.
In 2016, the US Council of Economic Advisers reported that 83% of current jobs paying less than $20 per hour could be automated. With this in mind, Congress should work to deregulate sectors of the economy that are growing. By slashing senseless regulations, American workers will be able to take advantage of new professional opportunities like ridesharing services and explore other alternate career paths. I support pursuing these common-sense policies in tandem with updating our international trade agreements, resulting in a more comprehensive policy that is capable of providing short and long term solutions to the economic issues plaguing hard-working American citizens.
The only way to leverage the massive benefits that international trade offers, however, is to ensure that American workers have the skills to fill the jobs it creates. The federal government must help those disenfranchised by our changing job market and provide opportunities for job training, creating new pathways of upward mobility. Today, only 1 in 3 Americans have a college degree. In the past, hard workers without a college education were still able to obtain safe, good paying jobs in prosperous economic sectors. Through careers in fields like the military, construction, and manufacturing, they were able to earn a living and provide for their families. Increases in productivity have begun to crowd out these sectors, making it harder to achieve economic stability while working those jobs. If we want to enact true economic change, lifting people into the middle class and keeping them there, we must provide new routes for social mobility. Access to college education will be crucial in achieving this goal. With degrees in hand, workers can enter into job markets and feel secure in their role in the American economy.
In recent years, the unemployment rate for those with a college degree was 2.4% while the unemployment rate for those without a college degree was 7.4% - we must level the playing field to give all Americans an equal opportunity for economic prosperity.
It’s important to include automation and social mobility in discussions of trade, because if trade is not the major cause of job loss in the United States, then protectionism is not a solution to our current economic issues. In fact, protectionism may even exacerbate issues of economic inequality. Apparel, for example, is produced at significantly lower costs abroad. Enacting protectionist trade policies to save the small fraction of jobs in the apparel industry (135,000 in 2017) would drastically increase clothing prices for American consumers.
To ensure US consumers have access to affordable, high quality products without jeopardizing opportunities for American businesses to compete in the international market, I pledge to demand that all trading partners abide by the highest of standards. If countries, including China, continue to pursue unfair trade practices, I will hold them accountable by using the power of the US economy to protect American interests. The United States must enforce the trade agreements in which currency devaluation, environmental degradation, discriminatory pricing, market flooding, and the abuse of workers are not allowed. I will fight to prevent any rapid increases in imports that can harm communities that produce substitute goods, a surefire way of preserving the remaining manufacturing jobs supporting so many local families across America.
When it comes down to it, I recognize that global trade hasn’t lived up the expectations of millions of Americans. But I also recognize the immense potential the United States has to leverage the power of international trade to better the lives of all Americans and improve America’s standing in the world.