LIMA — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) made a visit to Teamsters Local Union 908 hall Friday to discuss the North American Free Trade Agreement with a number of community representatives — workers, local city leaders and manufacturers — and hear how constituents expect the federal government to approach potential NAFTA renegotiations. Brown had similar meetings in Toledo and Dayton.
Brown introduced four points to renegotiate the trade deal — securing anti-outsourcing, encourage American workers and industries to work together, create enforcement policies if a deal is violated and include workers in negotiations.
“Time after time, we’ve seen corporate lobbyists writing trade deals behind closed doors, while American workers are locked out,” Brown said. “That’s how we end up with trade agreement after trade agreement that sells out workers.”
Brown said that NAFTA may have had negative effects in local communities, especially with manufacturers moving out of the region to find cheaper labor in Mexico, but he disagrees with some of the statements made by President Donald Trump, who has said in the past that he may consider pulling the United States of NAFTA if he can’t find a better deal for the country.
That, Brown said, may be dangerous as many businesses have found markets in Canada and Mexico because of the agreement.
Brown asked Rudolph Farms what might happen if the U.S. would pull out of NAFTA.
Rudolph Farms representative Gary Burns said three things would mostly likely happen — sales would go down as 10 to 15 percent of their product is sold in Mexico, there would be fewer agricultural workers and a decrease in raw materials for pork products. In simple terms, they would make and sell fewer pork rinds.
“The further south you go, the more pork rinds you sell,” Burns said.
Others at the roundtable discussion brought up a number of concerns about NAFTA and otherwise — from Mexican truck drivers skirting employment laws to pollution south of the border to the problems facing retirees with fixed incomes.
Mayor David Berger expressed his concern with Trump’s willingness to pull the United States out of other international trade deals, especially Trump’s move to pull the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership early in his term. Berger argued that such moves makes the American industries weaker in an international market.
“The idea that we can just walk away is false,” Berger said. “It’s like picking up a gun, putting it next to your head and pulling the trigger.”
Outside of trade agreement renegotiation, Brown said the federal government can help local businesses by making sure the tax environment is friendly to industry. He riffed on the latest tax reform bill passed by the Republican-led Congress, which Brown said overwhelmingly benefits the upper class over workers.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.