Strickland Vows ‘No More Terrible Trade Deals’

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Democrat Ted Strickland selected a weed-choked parking lot across the street from a shuttered castings foundry as the setting to drive home how unfair trade deals have cost Americans their livelihoods.

Strickland, the former Ohio governor who is running for the U.S. Senate against Republican incumbent Rob Portman, made a stop in the city Friday as part of his “No More Terrible Trade Deals” Tour.

“I’ve been in Toledo, Lima, Dayton, Cincinnati and Columbus over the last two days talking about jobs that have been outsourced to foreign countries,” Strickland said, flanked by supporters from the building trades, former workers, Democratic Party representatives, and local elected officials.

He finished the three-day tour Friday, and followed his Youngstown visit with appearances in Cleveland and Akron.

Strickland, referring to Parker-Hannifin Corp.’s shuttered castings foundry across the street on Logan Avenue, said that at one time thousands worked there. The operation was founded as the Commercial Shearing Corp. and then renamed Commercial Intertech in the 1980s. Parker-Hannifin acquired Commercial in 2000.

Parker closed its Logan Avenue plant in 2013 and more than 60 workers lost their jobs. The company is in the process of closing another operation on Intertech Drive in Youngstown.

Strickland says much of the work is now performed offshore in countries such as China.

“This business was an engine of economic growth for this community,” Strickland said. “Youngstown people are real-world examples of how damaging trade policies are hurting Ohio’s economy and working people.”

Strickland vowed should he be elected, he would oppose trade deals that would ship American jobs overseas to China, Mexico or other countries. “I will fight to make sure that foreign trade does not continue to undermine Ohio jobs.”

He said one of his objectives is to push for transparency in any future trade negotiations. In particular, Strickland advocates legislation that would require any draft trade agreement be made public 90 days before a fast-track vote is taken.

Fast track authority allows the executive branch to negotiate trade agreements without comments, input or amendments from Congress, and then present the full agreements to the U.S. Senate for an up or down vote.

The most recent of these is the Trans Pacific Partnership, or TPP, agreement.

“Senator Portman has taken a different approach,” Strickland said of his opponent. “Sen. Rob Portman is the best senator that China has ever had. He voted just last year to give fast-track authority for TPP.”

Strickland accused Portman of flip-flopping on the issue, since the Republican now says that he can’t support TPP the way it is written.

He also charged that Portman in the past has voted for awarding Most Favored Nation trading status to China, and, while Portman served as U.S. Trade Representative under President George W. Bush, the country’s trade deficit with China increased by 21%.

Although Portman now publicly criticizes China’s policy of currency manipulation, he didn’t act on the issue when he had the power to do so as trade representative, Strickland charged, and cited a Politico story that said Portman opposed “cracking down on unfair Chinese steel imports.” And, as senator, Portman, opposed the auto rescue, he added.

“So, there’s a world of difference between Ted Strickland and Rob Portman when it comes to this critical issue,” the former governor said.

“It’s laughable for Ted Strickland to stand in front of an empty building considering that when he was governor Ohio ranked 48th in job creation and lost more than 350,000 jobs – including thousands to other states and other countries,” responded Portman campaign spokeswoman Michawn Rich. “With such an awful record on China, it’s surprising and hypocritical that Ted Strickland has decided to do a ‘Trade Tour.’”

Rich said as a congressman, Strickland failed to hold China accountable for its policies and also voted for China’s designation Most Favored Nation trade status. As governor, Strickland’s administration opened a trade office there, while statistics show the Mahoning Valley lost 8,989 jobs during his tenure.

“Rob Portman is the only candidate in this race with a record of being tough on China – even opposing his own party to stop China’s currency manipulation and protecting jobs when China cheats,” Rich said.

Strickland said that he has a history of opposing trade deals as far back as the North America Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, which was passed during the Clinton administration.

As it stands, Strickland calls the race “a toss up,” noting that he leads in all but one of the 10 or 11 public polls. “That’s good news for me, seeing that millions of dollars has been spent against me, and I’ve spent very little. I’ve probably been outspent 15 to 1 on TV.”

Strickland also believes that continued disarray in the Republican Party as the season inches closer to the national convention in Cleveland could give his bid a boost.

“I think Republicans are between a rock and a hard place when it comes to what’s happening in their party,” Strickland says, noting that the probable presidential nominee will be either Ted Cruz or Donald Trump.

“I don’t know how they can hope to win with a nominee that is so extreme, and both Trump and Cruz are extreme in my judgment,” Strickland said.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.