Put Some Teeth in America’s Weak Trade Policy

With much of the focus in the 2016 presidential race on jobs, or lack thereof, it may be a sensible time to bring the looming specter of China’s overcapacity issue to the forefront of the debate.  Even though the Obama administration has attempted to thwart China’s overcapacity in the steel, aluminum, and paper industries, the damage is irrevocable and reprehensible, placing hundreds of thousands of American livelihoods in harm’s way. 

The tariffs placed in the path of the Chinese steel onslaught have once again come too little, too late.  Our courts, the World Trade Organization (WTO), and our own politicians put roadblocks in the way of American corporations and the labor movement to hit the brakes on this rapid destruction of the industry. The burden of proof for pain and suffering must be proven by our system, and it comes with a cost.

The Steelworkers have lost almost 13,500 jobs in the past year alone due to China’s flooding of the world markets with inferior, inexpensive steel products.  U.S. Steel alone has had to idle operations at its Granite City, Ill., operations, shuttering the majority of its Fairfield Works in Alabama, and has significantly reduced mining in Minnesota.  Add to the list ArcelorMittal’s plate and sheet mills in Conshohocken, Pa., and a multitude of others around the country and the dismal picture of the industry is laid bare for all to see.

The fragile state of American manufacturing is illuminated with the ongoing onslaught of currency manipulation and a $365.7 billion dollar trade deficit with China alone.  Try not to forget that this isn’t the only conflagration we’re trying to tame because we’ve not even talked about the mega-deal the Obama Administration is still trying to pass with the 12-nation, Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement. 

It makes you wonder which team U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman really has allegiance to – the ridiculously wealthy multinationals and their Washington and Wall Street allies or the ever-crippled American manufacturing workers, who have lost nearly 5 million jobs since China was awarded membership in the WTO in 2001. 

Although Secretary Froman wasn’t around for that catastrophe, his signature is all over the putrid, Korean-American FTA (KORUS).  Once again, the American public, under Presidents Bush and Obama, were wrongly led to believe that this deal (on which the TPP was based) would reduce our trade deficit with Korea and create 75,000 jobs.  Unfortunately, the carnage continues under KORUS, with the trade deficit now upwards of $34 billion, and the job losses approaching the 100,000 mark.

Secretary Froman and his cronies decry the efforts of the opposition, such as that in the labor movement, of being a radical, protectionist element that will propagate a trade war.  This is a ludicrous narrative. If you haven’t noticed, Mr. Secretary, we’ve been in a war for over two decades, and we’ve been getting slaughtered. Furthermore, if you lack the fortitude to stand up to China’s flagrant behavior, why should we believe that you’ll be in our corner when 11 nations may violate the rules of the TPP? 

Let us, Secretary Froman, for once be on the side of the American worker.  Let’s show due diligence, be virtuous, and fight this dumping and the TPP with fervor. Come on, Secretary Froman, let’s get a fire in our belly once again, and defend American manufacturing and American workers! 


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