January 29, 2017

Insisting on Trade Deals That Benefit West Virginians | The Wheeling Intelligencer

West Virginia’s economy has been hit hard by past trade agreements that often favored the economies of foreign countries and not our own. Over the past few decades our state has been uniquely impacted by these harmful trade agreements on our manufacturing industry, while also being the target of sweeping environmental regulations that crippled our energy industry.

As trade agreements have been ratified, we’ve seen our jobs being shipped overseas, resulting in significant job loss. West Virginians are resilient, hard-working and continue to work to better our state’s economy and create job opportunities, but the government cannot continue to work against us by ratifying more harmful trade deals.

It’s for these reasons that I have always been opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other trade deals like the North America Free Trade Agreement that have had adverse impacts on West Virginia and our country’s economy. And that is why I support President Trump’s memorandum to withdraw from the TPP and any additional efforts he may take to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico and Canada.

Communities across West Virginia have suffered significant economic losses over the past several years due to trade policies that force Americans to compete with foreign workers making less than a dollar an hour. The ratification of the TPP would have done much of the same to diminish our workforce and put American workers at a competitive disadvantage. Seven of the 11 countries in the TPP have a minimum wage of less than $2.00. Malaysia’s minimum wage is $1.21, Peru’s is $1.15 and Vietnam’s is a mere 58 cents. Even after NAFTA, Mexico’s minimum wage hasn’t risen above a dollar.

It is demoralizing that we, as Americans, are willing to negotiate with countries that have such disregard for their workers. It is equally upsetting that we have continued to force hard-working Americans to compete with foreign workers making less than a dollar an hour.

TPP would have harmed our workers in just the same way as past failed trade deals like NAFTA, the impacts of which are far reaching. In West Virginia alone, more than 30,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost due to NAFTA, with the steel, aluminum, chemical, and glass industries being hit the hardest.

As a direct result of failed trade deals including NAFTA, 2,147 steelworkers in the Northern Panhandle lost their jobs and their livelihood as steel companies struggled to fight a flood of cheap imports produced by foreign labor. As your senator, I have never voted or supported trade deals that send our jobs overseas and we can no longer continue to accept trade agreements that empower corporate America while working class Americans and West Virginia communities suffer.

As I have said before, government has the ability to create an environment that promotes job growth and withdrawing from harmful trade agreements like TPP and renegotiating NAFTA are commonsense steps to achieving that goal. West Virginians are some of the hardest working people in our nation and I am working every day to preserve and bring back manufacturing jobs back to our state.

I will continue to work with President Trump and my colleagues in the Senate to protect American jobs and I will push for solutions that will help create and keep good-paying jobs in our state and our nation.