Last week, we received confirmation of what so many of us in Ohio have known all along: that you should never bet against the American auto industry.
Americans bought more cars last year than ever before, defying naysayers and proving once again that we made the right call in 2010 when we passed the auto rescue. We protected Ohio jobs up and down the supply chain. Since then, we’ve seen steady growth in the industry, culminating in this year’s record high sales. Chrysler posted seven percent gains in sales, and Ford and GM were not far behind.
But just as the American auto industry is roaring back to life, a massive new trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) threatens to stop that progress in its tracks, and even take us backward.
Any trade deal ought to level the playing field for America’s auto suppliers. That means opening up new markets to sell American cars abroad, and protecting America’s car companies from unfair foreign competition.
Cheerleaders for the TPP say that new markets will supposedly be opened up to American cars. But we’ve heard those empty promises before. In reality, many of these new markets won’t be opened on day one, as in the cases of Malaysia and Vietnam. In fact, it could be more than a decade before American automakers have full access to these closed markets.
And the TPP will do nothing to level the playing field with our top competitor, Japan, or to change Japan’s distinction as the most closed auto market in the world. Car makers in Ohio and across the country will still be competing with huge numbers of Japanese imports but we won’t have the same opportunity to export to Japan. Japan has a web of barriers to its market that keep American automakers out and this deal won’t put a dent in most of them.
On top of this, sections of the agreement meant to protect existing American auto jobs are even weaker than NAFTA’s. I never thought I’d be able to say this, but this agreement makes NAFTA – an agreement I fought hard to defeat – look good.
Some of the TPP’s most important auto rules were written by Japan for Japanese automakers, to the benefit of China, and at the expense of American auto jobs. They will jeopardize the livelihoods of thousands of Americans – including more than 600,000 Ohioans – whose jobs depends on the U.S. auto supply chain.
These are not just statistics, they are real workers in Ohio and across the country with bills to pay and families to feed. Their hard work made the auto rescue a success. And they’ve fought too hard to bring the auto industry back to life for us to pull the rug out from under them now with a trade deal that sells out American auto jobs.
We must continue fighting for a better deal for American auto jobs.
Sherrod Brown is a U.S. Senator from Ohio.