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Will Free Trade Be An Issue In U.S. Senate Race?

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The candidates for U.S. Senate are skeptical about the Trans-Pacific Partnership backed by President Obama. Ohio Public Radio's Jo Ingles reports.

A giant sucking sound. Those are the words former Presidential candidate Ross Perot used to describe the effect he thought the North American Free Trade agreement would have on the nation’s economy some twenty years ago when it was put in place. But some Democrats, including U.S. Senate candidate and former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, think Perot was right to be skeptical. Strickland says he disagrees with President Obama when it comes to the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership. Strickland says, like NAFTA, it’s likely the TPP could hurt pay and working conditions for Ohioans.  
 
“It’s these multi-national trade deals where countries enter into them with vastly different economies, vastly different laws governing their economy that I think are so problematic. Because what it leads to is a race to the bottom. What’s a company trying to do? They are trying to increase their shareholder value,” Strickland says.  
 
Strickland says he will not support the TPP deal if it doesn’t help Ohio workers. His Democratic opponent, Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, agrees on this point. Dale Butland, Sittenfeld’s spokesman, says the candidate doesn’t like the idea of allowing President Obama to have so much control either.  
 
“We’ve got to have better protections for Ohio workers. Heaven knows, we have lost hundreds of thousands of jobs since the passage of the last major trade agreement, namely NAFTA,” Butland says.
 
Republican U.S. Senator Rob Portman says it’s premature for opposition to the TPP at this point since major parts of it are still in negotiation.  
 
“And the question as to whether I will support the TPP or not depends on what’s in it. Obviously. And so to me it’s going to be all dependent on what’s good for Ohio and what’s going to add more jobs to Ohio. We want to export more. A number of these countries keep our products, our services out. They keep our agricultural products out which is huge for Ohio. They keep our manufactured products out which is huge for Ohio. So I’m going to look at it to see whether it is fair for Ohio,” Portman says.  
 
International trade is an issue that usually pits Wall Street against Main Street. This issue could be a big factor in the Senate race in Ohio next year.

Jim has been with WCBE since 1996. Before that he worked as a reporter at another Columbus radio station, and for three newspapers in Southwest Florida.
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