A renegotiated NAFTA should include protections for U.S. workers who saw a flood of jobs move south of the border in the 25 years since the trade agreement between Mexico, Canada and the U.S. was approved, said U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.
“NAFTA has had an impact on the whole (Miami) Valley, primarily that so many middle class Americans, so many working families have not seen a raise in the last decade. To me its all about how do you write a trade agreement and how do you write tax policy that helps to increase wages, not push wages down,” Brown said during an appearance at the United Autoworkers Local 696 headquarters in Dayton on Friday.
Brown held a discussion with a group of 10 that included business executives, UAW and IUE-CWA officials, retirees and a worker who was laid off from Delphi.
“NAFTA has drug everyone down,” said Brian Martin, president of UAW Local 696.
At the same time, Martin said, NAFTA has also opened opportunities. In fact, Mexico is a big source of business for the General Motors warehouse that Local 696 members work at in West Chester Twp., Martin said.
“We are for free trade” but it also has to be fair and when companies or countries violate the rules they should be penalized and face tariffs, Martin said.
“We need to even that playing field,” he said.
Brown said he is in regular contact with U.S. Trade Rep. Robert Lighthizer, who he called one of President Donald Trump’s best appointees.
“We’re asking the President to get engaged in a way to raise wages, not cut taxes on the wealthiest people in the country,” said Brown, who opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement when Congress passed it in 1993.
Some Democrats have found rare agreement with Trump on the need to renegotiate the deal. Trump has threatened to pull out of trade pact and U.S. trade representatives are holding NAFTA talks with Canadian and Mexican officials in Montreal.
“Too many Ohioans have lost jobs in the Miami Valley and Springfield and Dayton and Huber Heights, all over, because of bad trade policy, bad tax policy,” Brown said.
“Unfortunately that tax bill that just passed will make more companies shut down production in Springfield or Xenia or Dayton and move overseas and get tax breaks,” Brown said. “So this government’s still not on the side of American workers and we still have a lot to do. We just can’t wait as more jobs are lost.”
A Trump spokeswoman could not be reached for comment.
Brown is asking that workers be included in the negotiations, that negotiators secure anti-outsourcing and buy America provisions, and that they build enforcement tools that favor American workers rather than foreign corporations when violations occur.
Brown said NAFTA has helped some economic sectors, such as agriculture, but hurt industrial workers and the thinks any deal should not pit workers and industries against each other.
“It’s not a question of (whether) you pull out of NAFTA as the president has said he might do, or leave it alone,” Brown said. “It’s a question of making NAFTA better.”