Two weeks ago, Jack Torry wrote a column titled “Kasich and Portman need to fire a response before hope is lost” (emphasis added) in which he lamented the Democratic attacks against former Bush “free trade” czar Rob Portman and Mr. Wall Street John Kasich because they were effective lines to attack them.

Ever since then, Torry has been trying to make the case that Rob Portman’s trade deals have been great, just great, for Ohio.

Today, he penned another story that I cannot tell is intended to be an editorial column or a news story, “Facts forgotten in political ads against trade deals.”  And, just what are those facts forgotten in the trade debate?

  • Since 1998 until 2008, Ohio was the only State in the nation to expand its exports every year.
  • The U.S. Commerce Department reports that in the first quarter of this year, Ohio exports were a staggering 27 percent higher than the first quarter of last year — growing faster than the national average.
  • Ohio companies sold $9.6 billion worth of goods abroad in the first quarter, including nearly $2 billion of industrial machinery and computers and $1.7 billion of cars, trucks and automotive parts.
  • More than 360,000 Ohio jobs are linked in some way to exports.
  • The three largest recipients of Ohio goods are Canada, Mexico and China.
  • Ohio’s exports to China have leaped from a paltry $292 million in 2001 to $1.9 billion last year.

What Torry seems to be suggesting is that because Governor Strickland and Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher has been able to turn Ohio around into one of the largest exporting states in the nation, particularly, to China, then they have no business criticizing these trade deals as “bad for Ohio.”  Having made the best of a bad situation, Mr. Torry argues, leaves Strickland and Fisher with no factual basis to argue against policies that left Ohio as the only state in the nation to see exports consistently increase as a result.  Silly me, I actually expect a good trade deal to easily increase exports across the nation.

For a fact-check argument against conventional political wisdom in Ohio, Mr. Torry leaves out half the equation, and the half he presents is incredibly weak tea.  What Torry leaves out is the increase in importation into Ohio as a result of these policies.  You know, how many more goods are flowing from China into Ohio than vice versa as a result of these trade deals and the deleterious effect that has on employment in Ohio.  After all, Torry does not even seem to dispute that 362,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost in Ohio since 2001 as a result of these trade deals.

While it is true that while Governor Strickland has been in office and Lt. Lee Fisher was running the Ohio Department of Development, Ohio has been able to vastly improve the number of goods it exports internationally.  It is equally true that such an increase is paltry compared the amount of goods imported into Ohio and the rest of the nation as a result of these trade deals.

Our trade deficit is an ignored problem that is more problematic for our economy than even our budget deficit, and these free trade deals worsened our trade deficit problem.  While we in Ohio have closed that gap considerably under Gov. Strickland and Lee Fisher, that in no way means that they are hypocritical in pointing out that despite their successes, Ohio has lost more than it gained from such deals.

Jack Torry may feel he’s the only “hope” left for the GOP ticket.  But he shouldn’t use his position in the media to do a partisan “fact check” column that is devoid of all the relevant facts.

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  • Patrick Kelley

    Tim, agree with you a lot on this one. We can thank Bill Clinton for selling out on this one, for a few coffees at The White House and some campaign contributions funded by The Chinese People's Army.

    President Obama said he was going to renegotiate NAFTA and “get tough” with China. The Democratic Party controls the Congress, lock, stock, and barrel (sorry for the gun reference). Why hasn't the Democrats made good on their promises? Maybe they pander to big business as much as the Republicans do? Your thoughts would be appreciated.

  • modernesquire

    Actually, Tim didn't write this one. I did.

    I said during the Democratic presidential primaries that the notion that we would unilaterally withdraw from NAFTA was unlikely. Despite our majorities in Congress, I'll be honest and say I doubt that there's a majority of Democrats in Congress that would support it.

    I think we'd get most, if not all, of the Democratic Ohio delegation. Except for some Ron Paul-types on the Republican side (like Congressman Ron Paul), most of the Republicans would vote against it. But I think several of the large city Democrats particularly from the West Coast would be unlikely to support a repeal of NAFTA.

    I think the reason is that given the state of the economy, an act tthat would like trigger a trade war and upset the markets even further is political poison. Ironically, we're being ask to wait to recover before we can see if Obama will ever re-examine NAFTA as promised.

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