U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi uses story of father to argue for trade deals
By Jessica WehrmanThe Columbus Dispatch • Friday June 12, 2015 10:54 PM
WASHINGTON — When Republican Rep. Pat Tiberi was a high-school student, his father’s job — as a lathe operator for Weinman Pump Manufacturing on Spruce Street in Columbus — was eliminated.
To hear Tiberi tell it, that experience helped inform his position as one of the leading House members pushing Congress to pass two massive trade bills — one with Pacific Rim countries, and the other with European Union countries — possibly later this year.
Tiberi’s dad did not lose his job because of NAFTA; the trade deal with Mexico and Canada hadn’t yet passed. He lost it because of globalization, Tiberi said.
“They couldn’t compete internationally,” said Tiberi, 52, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee’s subcommittee on trade.
When the House voted Friday on a bill that would provide the president with the authority to negotiate trade bills, Tiberi was at the front of the House, arguing that if the U.S. doesn’t engage in trade, it stands to lose even more jobs.
His past few days have made him something of an omnipresent face on the floor. While Democrats and some in his own party fought the bill, Tiberi worked to lead those who supported the controversial measure.
In the end, the results were mixed for him: The House will be back next week to vote again on trade-adjustment assistance after Democrats voted down a proposal Friday to extend the aid. But the House did vote to support a separate measure to give President Barack Obama authority to negotiate a trade agreement.
Tiberi’s take is that he’s fighting an emotional and incredibly organized opposition led by labor leaders, including the AFL-CIO.
“In the last 20 or 25 years, millions of dollars have been spent on television advertising telling Ohioans that trade is bad … and there hasn’t been anything close to anybody running ads saying, ‘You know what? We lost jobs before our first trade agreement passed,’ ” he said.
“The irony is for all the grief people give big business and multinationals and the Chamber of Commerce, they’re pathetic in the way they lobby on this issue versus organized labor.”
Those opposed to the pending trade agreements — including the Trans-Pacific Partnership among the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries — argue that such trade agreements result in the U.S. bleeding valuable manufacturing jobs.
Tiberi, just as passionately, argues the opposite. He said other countries run into no problems exporting their products to America, but the U.S. faces difficulty exporting to other countries. More trade agreements, he argues, would fix that.
“We’re being left behind,” he said, noting that during the past 10 years, 48 trade agreements have been negotiated in Asia. The U.S., meanwhile, has entered into two such agreements.
His view is counter to that of Sen. Sherrod Brown, who argues that the way trade agreements are written sets them up to help corporate interests rather than the interests of the average American.
The Ohio Democrat was a leading opponent of giving Obama trade authority when the bill was in the Senate, which passed it narrowly.
“I want more trade,” Brown said. “I also want it to be under rules that work for our country.”
Brown said the same rules that U.S. manufacturers abide by — paying at least a minimum wage and protecting workers and the environment — should be rules that trading partners also follow.
“Every trade agreement makes big promises about job increases, about job growth and wage increases,” he said. “And every time, it falls far, far short.”
Tiberi acknowledges “winners and losers” in trade.
“If we disengage, the reality is the world’s going to pass us by,” Tiberi said. “Globalization is going to continue whether we engage or not.”