I have spent my entire career fighting for a trade policy that puts Ohio workers first. Two days after last November’s election, I called the president-elect’s transition team and offered to work with them to make good on his campaign promise to renegotiate NAFTA.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve held roundtables with workers across Ohio to get their input and hear what they believe that should look like. Last Monday, I sent a letter to President Trump outlining a strategy for renegotiating NAFTA, to secure the best deal for Ohio workers. The plan has four key parts, including new strategies that the U.S. hasn’t used in past trade deal negotiations.
First, we need secure up front commitments from Mexico and Canada on anti-outsourcing provisions and Buy America protections before even beginning negotiations.
We know what causes outsourcing: low wages, exploited workers, and weak, or non-existent, environmental protections in other countries. That’s why we need commitments from our trading partners to secure strict worker protections before we even sit down at the negotiating table.
Next, we can’t pit American workers and industries against each other. The administration should develop individualized negotiating strategies for manufacturing sectors that have been hurt by outsourcing.
American workers shouldn’t be horse-traded simply for the sake of cutting a deal.
Of course, even good trade deals mean nothing if they aren’t enforced. Any new deal must also include more meaningful enforcement tools for American workers, and do away with special courts that allow multi-national corporations to undermine U.S. laws and take advantage of American workers.
Finally, we need to 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. That’s how we end up with trade agreement after trade agreement that sells out workers.
American jobs shouldn’t be up for negotiation, and American workers can’t be traded away as bargaining chips. 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.
The writer is a U.S. senator from Ohio.