Ohio’s senior senator in Washington has been cautious but creative in working with President Donald Trump and his administration, which by every measure is working to tear down policies and programs the gravely voiced senator with perpetually ruffled hair has gone to bat for over the long arc of his political career.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, a twice-elected senator and author of “The Myths of Free Trade,” presented his blueprints to win a third term in the U.S. Senate next year with a presentation at The Ohio State University’s Glenn College of Public Affairs not long ago.
Without going into detail on his plan, which Plunderbunders can read here, it’s safe to say that Mr. Brown is pro-worker down the line.
In light of what’s been said and done by America’s 45th president in his first 100 days in office, a sane person can be led to think he’s a madman of the first degree.
His alt-madness just might get played in a positive way if Sen. Brown can redirect the White House’s continuing promises to end NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) if negotiations with Canada and Mexico – America’s second and third biggest trading partners – don’t go as the White House wants them to go.
Trying to work with the president and his aides, Sen. Brown spies an opening to inject his concerns for fair treatment for workers, among other issues, into a new, retooled NAFTA.
Sen. Brown’s office informed reporters and others recently about his four-point strategy for renegotiating NAFTA, calling it “the best deal for American workers.”
1. Secure Anti-Outsourcing and Buy America Provisions Up Front
2. Don’t Pit American Workers and Industries against Each Other in Negotiations
3. Build Enforcement Tools that Favor American Workers, Not Foreign Corporations if the Deal is Violated
4. Include Workers in the Negotiations
“American jobs shouldn’t be up for negotiation and American workers can’t be traded away as bargaining chips,” Brown said in prepared remarks. “By setting high standards, putting workers ahead of corporations and refusing to compromise on outsourcing, we can create the best possible deal for all American workers.”
Sen. Brown seems aware of what Ohioans want thanks to his due diligence assessing the mood and thoughts of Buckeyes on a variety of social and economic issues.
We’re told that the senator has held a series of roundtables with Ohio workers in recent weeks to get their input on what the priorities should be for a renegotiated NAFTA.
Included in the senator’s circle of contacts is U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who as recently as last week reaffirmed the White House’s commitment to renegotiating NAFTA.
Even though Sen. Brown is an outspoken critic of the president and many of his aides on many topics too numerous to list now, he’s got their ear on trade. As his letter to President Trump shows, the two maybe on the same page on trade more than any other topic.
Brown’s office noted in an email this week that immediately after President Trump’s election, the senator reached out to his transition team to offer his help on retooling U.S. trade policy.
As early as November, Brown wrote to Trump offering specific steps to work together on trade, and Trump responded with a handwritten note.
Since then, Brown has spoken with the president about “Buy American” policies and had multiple conversations with top White House trade advisers, including Ross and USTR nominee Robert Lighthizer.
Brown opposed NAFTA when it was first passed and he now sits on the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over trade agreements.
Brown’s Method of Madness on NAFTA Renegotiation
1. SECURE ANTI-OUTSOURCING AND BUY AMERICA PROVISIONS UP FRONT
We know what causes outsourcing: low wages, exploited workers and weak, or non-existent, environmental protections in other countries encourage companies to relocate where it’s cheaper to do business. This has created a race to the bottom that hurts all workers, brings down wages and jeopardizes clean air and water.
So Brown’s plan calls on the administration to secure commitments from Mexico and Canada to enforce strict worker and environmental protections before even sitting down at the negotiating table.
In the past, U.S. trade negotiators have used up their leverage without securing strong enough standards to protect American jobs. By securing strong anti-outsourcing provisions up front, Brown’s plan ensures American jobs aren’t up for negotiation.
In addition to tough worker and environmental protections, Brown’s plan insists that Mexico and Canada agree up front that Buy American standards will not be weakened in negotiations.
2. DON’T PIT AMERICAN WORKERS AND INDUSTRIES AGAINST EACH OTHER IN THE NEGOTIATIONS
Too often, U.S. trade negotiators have pitted American workers and industries against each other as bargaining chips in the negotiation. For example, auto industry priorities get weighed against the needs of farmers.
American workers shouldn’t be horse-traded simply for the sake of cutting a deal. A renegotiated NAFTA must be a good deal for all workers.
So, Brown’s plan calls on the White House to develop individualized negotiation strategies for manufacturing sectors that have been hurt by outsourcing.
Identifying sectors that are susceptible to outsourcing and developing plans to address their unique needs and vulnerabilities in advance will ensure American workers and industries aren’t sacrificed during negotiations.
3. BUILD ENFORCEMENT TOOLS THAT FAVOR AMERICAN WORKERS, NOT FOREIGN CORPORATIONS WHEN THE DEAL IS VIOLATED
Even good trade deals don’t mean anything if they aren’t enforced. For too long, U.S. free trade agreements have included ineffective procedures for workers to challenge violations and super-sized procedures for corporations.
Investor-state dispute settlement provisions have created private, C-suite courts that allow foreign corporations to undermine U.S. laws and take advantage of American workers, while workers wait years for trade violations to be addressed – if they are addressed at all.
Brown’s plan would do away with special courts for corporations and create a better process for workers to get remedies if Mexico and Canada violate the agreement.
4. INCLUDE WORKERS IN THE NEGOTIATIONS
Time after time, we’ve seen corporate lobbyists writing trade deals behind closed doors, while American workers are locked out.
Brown’s plan calls on the White House to make U.S. proposals public before and after each negotiating round and give workers, consumers and public interest advocates equal representations with corporations on Trade Advisory Committees that wield special influence in negotiations.
Sherrod Brown is the last statewide elected Ohio Democratic head Republicans want to bag in 2018 to complete their wall of big-game captures over the last four election cycles, leaving Ohio Democrats and others wondering if the party can ever win another statewide election.
It looks like Sen. Brown is destined to face off once again with now term-limited state treasurer Josh Mandel, who Brown beat in 2012 even though Mr. Mandel had all the help $40 million and maybe more can buy to dispatch the man from Mansfield.