In an address at the Elliott School Wednesday morning, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, refuted recent news reports that the Obama administration is opposed to renegotiating the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“I spoke with trade representative Ron Kirk yesterday and he told me that all options are still on the table for NAFTA,” Brown said.
On Monday, Kirk indicated that the Obama administration was looking to strengthen NAFTA without renegotiating the terms of the treaty. During last year’s Democratic presidential primary campaign, Obama promised to “make sure we renegotiate [NAFTA]” at a debate in Cleveland.
Brown, an opponent of free trade policies, spoke Wednesday on a wide range of topics, from the current model of free trade agreements to the future of these agreements. First elected to Congress in 1992, Brown is the author of the book “Myths of Free Trade: Why American Trade Policy Has Failed.”
Brown cautioned the Obama administration against attempting to pass bilateral free trade treaties through Congress.
“I am not sure, with Congress trying to regulate the banking system and trying to fix the economy, they really want to have a debate about the continuation of the old policies on the floor of the House and Senate,” he said. “I don’t know if the White House will send any of the free trade agreements pending to Congress, but I hope not.”
But Brown said he was hopeful the new administration would pursue a different trade policy than its predecessors.
“I think the White House is aware of the issues with our current trade system and that they will work to try and strengthen the system before passing new agreements,” he said.
Brown is the author of the TRADE Act, also known as the Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment Act, which requires a review of existing trade pacts and sets forth regulations for future agreements.
“By passing the TRADE act, Congress will have better oversight over trade agreements, be able to make more stringent regulations of these agreements and have a vote on the agreements before they are signed,” he said.
Along with the TRADE Act, Brown called for the Obama administration to convene a blue-ribbon panel on trade regulation and has asked the Government Accountability Office to write a report assessing whether the current trade model is effective.
In regards to the GAO report, Brown said, “We should not pass any new agreements until the GAO has had the opportunity to evaluate our trade system in a nonpartisan, unbiased way. In addition, we must see evidence that trade agreements level the playing field for American workers and manufacturers.” n
This article appeared in the April 23, 2009 issue of the Hatchet.