Trump talks big on trade, but workers need action
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President Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric on trade hit like a cannonball across our Great Lakes heartland. From steel to solar panels, workers have been devastated by bad trade deals. Unfair market practices from China, Korea, and other nations that rig the global marketplace in their favor. The middle class and working families throughout Ohio took a chance on Donald Trump. So now, where is America on trade 100 days into Trump’s Presidency?

On March 30, a week ahead of his visit with President Xi Jinping, President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden, Sanders lead field in Iowa poll The Memo: Cohen fans flames around Trump Memo Comey used to brief Trump on dossier released: report MORE tweeted “the meeting next week with China will be a very difficult one in that we can no longer have massive trade deficits…”

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In Ohio, we agree with President Trump – the U.S. can no longer rack up massive trade deficits. Since 2016, our trade deficit with China has ballooned to $347 billion – that translates into millions of lost jobs and economic activity. President Trump repeatedly ridiculed our trade deficit on the campaign trail, citing previous administrations’ failure to advocate for fair trade deals that would benefit working Americans. 

But if the new administration were truly committed to fixing the trade gap and creating jobs, we would act on what I have long advocated – balancing American’s trade accounts. Instead, the administration has taken two steps backward.

President Trump has signed Executive Orders calling for a study of past trade deals and collecting unpaid anti-dumping penalties. Yet, he has refused to label China a currency manipulator, despite going on record numerous times saying just that. Despite promising to “get tough on China,” after inviting President Jinping to Mar-a-Lago, President Trump declared in an interview that China was not a currency manipulator.

This reversal is at the expense of America's workers and his contract with the American people is littered with such broken promises. This really becomes more frustrating in the face of the struggles average Americans face everyday. His trade policies propelled him to victory in my home state of Ohio. Yet he has fallen into the same “do nothing”, “politics as usual” routine where coastal politicians do little more than pay lip service to Middle America, save for a few months every four years. If Republican leaders in Congress and the president believe Americans won’t notice, and that they won’t take their frustrations back to the polls, they are sorely mistaken.

President Trump campaigned as a businessman – someone outside of the “Washington swamp.” He led the public to believe this was the quality that would enable him to get things done and get Americans back to work. We are quickly approaching President Trump’s 100th day in office. His efforts to enact meaningful policies that would benefit American workers have been almost nonexistent.

Take my district for example, which has become ground zero for job killing, bad trade policies. In Lorain, Ohio, thousands of steelworkers have lost their jobs, and another 700 will soon join them as U.S. Steel and Republic Steel move ahead with plant closures. Ohio’s steelworkers are just the latest casualties to suffer at the hands of manipulated currency and out of control steel dumping by China and South Korea. 

Our trade deficit with China and South Korea has continued to worsen, despite promises to the contrary. According to official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce, our trade deficit with China for tubular steel products was nearly $180 million, and over $600 million with South Korea. These dollars don’t just represent bad trade policy, they pink slip workers in America. Like many facilities across our country, the facilities in Lorain, Ohio are closing, drowned under a sea of unfairly traded steel. These very products should be made here on American soil by American workers.

I have invited the president and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to visit Lorain. Let them witness first-hand the urgency of stabilizing our steel manufacturing sector and fulfilling President Trump’s campaign promises of only a few months ago. In a letter to Secretary Ross, Sens. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownDem senator: Trump 'seems more rattled than usual' GOP rep: If Mueller had found collusion, ‘investigation would have wrapped up very quickly’ O’Rourke is fireball, but not all Dems are sold MORE (D-Ohio), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanDrug company to offer cheaper opioid overdose treatment after hiking price 600 percent The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — Congress to act soon to avoid shutdown On The Money: Trump touts China actions day after stock slide | China 'confident' on new trade deal | GM chief meets lawmakers to calm anger over cuts | Huawei CFO arrested MORE (R-Ohio), and I urged the administration to report on China’s currency manipulation, unfulfilled World Trade Organization (WTO) obligations, intellectual property theft, subsidies, and other predatory trade actions. The workers in Lorain and elsewhere need answers immediately, not next month.

Our nation needs to stem the tide of job losses caused by one-sided trade deals on an uneven global playing field. America’s workers and companies need fair trade policies so American manufacturers can succeed. Ultimately, the American people deserve a just, effective and results-oriented trade policy.

Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur is a senior Member of the Appropriations Committee, she is the longest actively serving woman in Congress and represents the 9th District of Ohio which spans from Toledo to Cleveland in northern Ohio.


The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.