U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) retires at the end of the year, but before he does, he hopes to have a hand in reenergizing openness toward global trade, a policy perspective that hasn’t been ascendant in the Biden administration or the preceding Trump administration.
In a guest column for the D.C.-based Hill newspaper, Portman and his Democratic Delaware colleague Chris Coons called on Congress to pass a legislative package facilitating foreign trade agreements. The lawmakers particularly urged enactment of their Trading System Preservation Act. The act would enable the president to iron out industry-specific trade deals with other nations that are part of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and would allow negotiation of comprehensive agreements with Ecuador, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and Kenya.
Portman and Coons suggested that more openness toward trade with allies could help to diminish the relative power of Communist China, which has enjoyed permanent normal trade relations with the United States since 1999 and WTO membership since 2000. Since that time, China has seen its economic growth and strategic power increase considerably.
“…This Congress has been unable to reach agreement on one important topic: international trade. The cost of inaction has been high,” the senators wrote. “China has moved swiftly to expand its trading relationships in the Indo-Pacific with its Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade agreement, and U.S. allies have moved forward without us in implementing their own version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Twenty years ago, the United States was the top trading partner for most countries in the world [but]… the United States [has been] eclipsed by China as almost every country’s top trading partner.”
The package that Portman and Coons want to pass also includes a reauthorization of the Trade Adjustment Assistance program which provides workers who have lost their employment as a result of trade deals with retraining for new occupations. The senators also want their colleagues to approve a policy Portman is cosponsoring with his Ohio Democratic colleague Sherrod Brown called the Leveling the Playing Field Act. That legislation would strengthen antidumping laws and other safeguards against unfair trade practices, particularly China’s decision to heavily subsidize its steel production which has led to the communist nation producing about half of the steel marketed across the globe.
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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Ohio Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Rob Portman” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0. Background Photo “U.S. Capitol” by Mark Fischer. CC BY-SA 2.0.