On Bloomberg, Portman Discusses His Support for USMCA: “Putting It Off Until Next Year Makes No Sense”
In an interview with Bloomberg’s Daybreak Americas this morning, Senator Portman highlighted the importance of passing the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement this year in order to strengthen our economy and support Ohio’s farmers and manufacturers. He also discussed the ongoing U.S.-China trade discussions and the need to hold the country accountable for violating international trade laws.
Excerpts of his interview can be found below and a video can be found here:
PORTMAN ON THE NEED TO PASS USMCA:
“Putting it off until next year makes no sense. We talked about this yesterday in the Finance Committee. We had six witnesses, and five of them were saying this is a whole lot better than the North American Free Trade Agreement. The sixth one was saying it’s better, but he would like to see some improvements. So everybody says it’s better, and it is in every respect. In fact, it is an agreement that has many things Democrats have asked for over the years, including some provisions that are kind of unusual for a Republican administration to have negotiated that help level the playing field, like a minimum-wage for 40-45 percent of the auto workers in Mexico, like insisting that 70 percent of the steel that’s used is North American steel. There’s some issues there that Democrats have fought for for years. Enforceable labor rights and enforceable environmental rights. These things are something that Democrats should embrace. My hope is that Speaker Pelosi will at least allow this to go to the floor for a vote in the House and we can get this moving. I think when you compare honestly the status quo, which is NAFTA, and the new USMCA, it is better in every respect for workers and farmers and service providers in this country.”
“Trade is complicated politically, as you know. A lot of people are skeptical about the benefits of trade, and partly that is justified. There have been instances where the U.S. has not had a level playing field and all of these agreements go toward a more level playing field. In other words, telling Ohio workers and Ohio farmers, ‘If you work hard and play by the rules, you can win.’ We will win. We are more productive, we have more technology, we have the ability to win. We just need a level playing field. I do think that this will be an issue in the campaign. It will be kind of muddled because both sides will have their arguments. But my sense is if we can get these done, you will actually see a bump up in the economy, you will actually see what the International Trade Commission is saying with regards to USMCA, 176,000 new jobs in this country. A lot more auto jobs which has been our biggest problem in terms of the trade deficit with Mexico and Canada. We have an opportunity here to do something really good for the American people and that’s what we ought to focus on.”
PORTMAN ON HOW TRADE TALKS WITH CHINA ARE PROGRESSING:
“I think we don’t know. I think that is what is always difficult about these trade talks because both the Chinese side and the American side are being pretty quiet about what happened, but with Secretary Mnuchin over there and Bob Lighthizer, the current USTR, it was a substantive talk, I guarantee it, and my hope is that because we’re talking again that we are making progress, and I think we are. We will see, probably we’ll learn a little more over the next couple of days about what actually happened. The fact that they agreed to continue talks is also a good thing.
“In my conversation with some of the Chinese leadership, including the Ambassador here in the United States and with others who are closer to the talks in the trade world, I do think there is some of that. I think there’s a sense that Donald Trump is going to be tougher on them then perhaps previous presidents were, and therefore maybe they should wait and see what happens. The problem with that is twofold. One, I think there is a consensus now here in the Congress that we do need to take certain measures to be tougher on China. Specifically with regard to the structural problems, the theft of intellectual property, the subsidization – the state owned enterprises in particular – and then the trade imbalance, so I don’t think that Congress is going to change significantly. Some people have indicated that a new president might be less tough on China. I’m not sure that is true. If you look at the Democratic debates and what people are saying about China, if anything, they are just as tough or tougher. I don’t think it makes sense to try to wait out the administration. I think Secretary Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Rep Lighthizer are well versed in the issues. I think that it would be in China’s interest and our interest to come up with a resolution and I think now is the time to do it. We have good partners in terms of the discussions, Vice Premier Liu seems to have a good rapport with Lighthizer and Mnuchin in particular. Let’s get this done, let’s resolve these issues to the extent we can, and let’s move forward with a more balanced trade relationship.”
PORTMAN ON THE STRENGTH OF ECONOMY AND IMPORTANCE TRADE:
“There are a lot of factors there. One of course is on the monetary side. You’re watching carefully as I am to see what happens this afternoon because other countries and regions, including Europe, have done quite a bit of loosening, same with China. I think that is part of the reason. There are other trade issues. We haven’t yet resolved the USMCA, the successor to the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA. We still have the potential of additional trade actions in Europe. As you know, I’ve been promoting getting USMCA finalized here. Let’s have a vote, let’s get that done. It is good for American workers and good for American farmers, great for my state of Ohio. Let’s resolve not to pursue the 232 with regards to the Europeans because that really doesn’t make sense as a national security exception that doesn’t fit with our allies. I think if we resolve some of those issues, it would help, but surely the resolution with China would be useful as well. I don’t think that is the reason we’ve seen less investment, but it is certainly one. By the way, our economy is still strong, and relatively strong when you look at the economic growth numbers over the past couple of months even, although there was some readjustment in the first quarter, we’re still doing a whole lot better than other countries. People still prefer to invest in the United States as opposed to elsewhere. Unemployment remains low, our wages continue to grow, there’s a lot of good news in our economy.”