Auto-state senators push for better trade rules

A bipartisan trio of senators from auto-manufacturing states are calling on U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman to open up foreign markets during global trade talks. 

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“The auto industry was critical to the nation’s recovery after the Great Recession and is a linchpin in our national economy, with 1.7 million workers and more than $70 billion in annual tax revenues,” the senators wrote in their letter. 

As negotiators move toward finishing the TPP, the senators said the deal must hold Japan to its commitment to eventually end tariffs — a process expected to take decades. They also said North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) rules of origin should be a part of the new deal.

Any final TPP agreement also must include provisions that aim to crack down on the practice of currency manipulation, a chief complaint of the auto industry, they said. 

“An agreement that does not include these provisions will give our foreign competitors an even greater unfair advantage and will undermine the future of the U.S. auto industry,” the senators wrote. 

A trade representative spokesman insisted that the deal will help the U.S. industry.

“TPP will be a major step forward to open new markets and level the playing field for American workers and manufacturers, including in the auto industry,” said the spokesman, who described Obama as a champion of the industry.

Prior to joining the TPP talks, Japan and the United States reached a series of agreements that included the eventual elimination of tariffs on autos. 

Brown and Stabenow wrote to Froman in December 2014 highlighting similar concerns over tariffs, country of origin labeling and currency in the TPP. 

The senators have pushed for TPP negotiators to add currency manipulation provisions into the final deal.

There was some discussion during the last round of TPP talks about including a side agreement that would require finance leaders of the 12 nations in the pact to meet on currency practices. 

— This story was updated on Sept. 11.