In a conference call with reporters Thursday morning hosted by Michael Froman, U.S. Trade Representative and Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Commerce, discussion centered on the importance of exports to American businesses, especially small businesses.  It’s a good thing that only reporters were on the call.  Had U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown or former Governor Ted Strickland been allowed to chime in, the good news pushed in the call would have been challenged by these high-profile Democrats. Each has spoken out loudly against the Trans-Pacific Partnership [TPP], a controversial trade agreement focused on spurring trade between and among various Asian nations.

This afternoon the Ohio Democratic Party’s Central Committee voted unanimously to oppose fast tracking the TPP, while also voting to endorse Ted Strickland in his bid to become the next U.S. Senator from Ohio, unseating Republican Rob Portman.

Thursday’s call was prompted by the administrative release of a joint report—United States of Trade—on the benefits of exporting to the nation and to each state. The report features small business owners in each state who are benefiting from trade. Nationwide, the report estimates that 11.7 million jobs were supported by exports in 2014, the fifth consecutive year of recordbreaking exports.

Secretary Pritzker and Ambassador Froman were joined on the call by Rob Fessler of Magellan Aviation Group in North Carolina and Jeff Hohman of Northwest Door, Inc. out of Washington. Both small businesses are featured in the report, and they have benefited from open markets abroad and used exports to strengthen their bottom line. President Obama has outlined an ambitious trade agenda that uses Made-in-America exports to support jobs, economic growth, and the American middle class, a media release said. The United States is currently pursuing two major freet trade agreements that will unlock opportunities for American manufacturers and growers in markets around the globe.

Ambassador Froman noted that the vast majority of small businesses are not exporting and said the goal is to set the same rules of the road for everyone. Bring up TPP, Froman notes that it will cover 40 percent of the world economy. Secretary Pritzker touted that trade creates good paying jobs, identifying over 4,000 businesses, 90 percent of which employ fewer than 500 workers, that account for 6.2 million jobs supported by exports.

Dems, Labor Not On-Board With TPP

In Ohio, where 16,452 companies employ 263,356 jobs that cumulatively produce $52.1 billion in value of goods exported in 2014, the belief that the TPP is good for state companies and their workers isn’t shared by Sen. Brown and Ted Strickland, who declared his candidacy recently to unseat first-term Ohio GOP Sen. Rob Portman, a fan of TPP. Since 2004, the report notes, exporting jobs in the state are up 64 percent and that in 2013 89.4 percent of exporting companies were small- or medium-sized businesses.

In an email Thursday, Sen. Brown, elected in 2006 and again in 2012, offered his unvarnished view that TPP will be bad for the economy and workers. Brown thinks TPP is a worse version of the North American Free Trade Agreement [NAFTA], passed in bi-partisan fashion by Congress in the mid-1990s and signed into law by President Clinton. Brown said NAFTA contributed to the loss of 683,000 jobs, 60 percent of which he notes were in the manufacturing sector.

“Almost 35,000 Ohioans found themselves unemployed thanks to a free trade agreement that’s been a disaster for our nation’s industrial base,” Sen. Brown said in prepared remarks. “American workers don’t have a seat at the TPP’s negotiating table. It’s up to us to make sure working families have a voice and a chance to defend themselves against a raw deal,” Sen. Brown said.

Posted on his campaign website, Ted Strickland, who has taken an early lead over Sen. Portman, advises to not trade away Ohio’s future by stopping TPP. “In the past 20 years, NAFTA has devastated Ohio’s economy with hundreds of thousands of jobs lost. The TPP will only do more harm. We can’t let greedy foreign companies and special interests continue to rob the future of Ohio’s working families,” Strickland says.

In response to the release today of the export report, Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga said that while the report does offer some good news about exports in Ohio, for the same period that the report was praising Ohio’s export increase, we were in fact falling deeper in deficit. Mr. Burga looked at national trade deficit statistics and determined the imbalance grew last year to $505 billion dollars. He said Ohio’s import/export deficit for commodities increased in 2014 to $18 billion dollars, up from $16 billion in 2013, concluding the state deficit grew.

“These imbalances stem from trade deals such as NAFTA and granting China ‘most favored nation’ status that opens the door for American manufacturers to set up operations in these countries, where workers are routinely exploited, human rights are violated, the environment is not a consideration and monetary laws ignored. The facts clearly show that globalization and international trade are not lifting up workers and as a result we continue to hemorrhage good paying American manufacturing and supply jobs at great cost to our overall economy.”

Burga says results from NAFTA were catastrophic. Over the last decade, he notes, 60,000 factories have closed in the United States, and in Ohio “we witnessed the loss of 320,000 manufacturing jobs.  In addition to this severe job loss in the private sector, unfair trade leads to shrinking public budgets that restrict the delivery of needed services and public works projects.”

Sen. Portman, a former United States Trade Representative under President George W. Bush, is all for opening new markets for American exports. He expressed his support for the Obama Administration’s decision to work with Congress to pass Trade Promotion Authority. “I also welcome the Administration’s plan to bring the negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement to an ambitious conclusion…”

Highlights of Ohio exporting:

  • $30.4 billion in goods exports to TPP partners in 2014
  • 58% of goods exports destined for TPP partners in 2014
  • $8.4 billion in goods exports to T-TIP partners in 2014
  • 16% of goods exports destined for T-TIP partners in 2014

• Soybeans $1.4b
• Other Plant Products $576m
• Soybean Meal $356m
• Feeds & Fodder $315m
• Corn $292m
• Transportation Equipment $15.7b
• Machinery $6.9b
• Chemicals $6.6b
• Primary Metal Products $3.0b
• Fabricated Metal Products $2.8b