A victory for American workers

By US Senator Rob Portman

April 10, 2014

I believe in the power of expanded exports to spur the creation of good jobs, but at the same time, it is critical that we enforce the international rules of trade. When our competitors manipulate markets, engage in illegal dumping, or raise barriers to trade, the United States must take action on behalf of Ohio workers, farmers, and service providers.

Enforcing our trade laws is not a partisan issue. It is a jobs issue and I am proud to stand with the people I represent when their jobs are threatened by the illegal trade practices of our competitors.

In 2011, I became aware of a scheme by the Chinese government to artificially inflate the price of rare earth materials, critical components in the kind of high-tech manufacturing Ohio is known for. Companies like GrafTech, a maker of graphite products in the Cleveland area or Electrodyne, a Cincinnati manufacturer of high tech magnets used in industrial, alternative energy, and automotive sectors.

These materials are found in everything from cars to advanced electronics to steel production. China, which controls 97 percent of the world’s supply of rare earth materials, was engaged in a concerted effort to drive up the cost of these components in order to give their own manufacturers a competitive advantage—in direct violation of China’s legal obligations as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). After China took these actions, Ohio companies saw their costs skyrocket, putting sales and jobs at risk.

I joined with Senator Brown to demand that the Obama Administration take action to protect American workers from China’s unfair and illegal practices, including by filing a case in the World Trade Organization against the government of China. In 2012, following our call for action, the Administration responded by officially filing a trade case against China in the WTO.

Because of our efforts, the WTO recently ruled that China’s export quota scheme violates global trade rules and China must halt its anti-competitive practices concerning rare earth materials. This is a significant victory for the United States and, more importantly, American manufacturers and their employees.

Stopping China’s manipulation of the market for rare earth materials is only the latest in a series of bipartisan efforts I have engaged in to ensure a level international playing field for Ohio workers. We’ve also stood up to China and other competitors when they’ve engaged in the illegal underselling and government subsidies for hot rolled-steel, oil country tubular goods, and diamond saw blades. I’ve also worked to have China declared a currency manipulator for its deliberate efforts to keep the value of its currency artificially low, disadvantaging American exports.

These enforcement actions are critical to Ohio workers. We know that properly negotiated and enforced trade agreements support millions of jobs in industries from agriculture to high-tech manufacturing. In 2012, more than $2.8 billion worth of Ohio-manufactured goods were exported to China alone, and a quarter of Ohio manufacturing jobs are now supported by exports.

Data shows that every $1 billion in US goods exports supports 5,400 American jobs, while every $1 billion of US services exports supports another 4,000. In today’s global economy, it is the tearing down of trade barriers, not building them up, that creates jobs and ensures a better future for American workers and entrepreneurs.

We want to see goods stamped “Made in the USA” sold in markets around the world. That means opening those markets to our products, but it also means enforcing the rules of trade. Ohio workers can compete with anyone on a level-playing field. I will continue to work to ensure that they are treated fairly and can reach their full potential.