06/15/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Getting America's Trade Policy Back on Track

Thirty-five years ago, the United States exported more goods and services than we imported. That was the last time our nation ran a trade surplus.

Since then, we've been importing far more than we've been exporting. Over the last decade, our annual trade deficit has averaged roughly half a trillion dollars.

American workers are among the most productive and highly skilled in the world. But we are forcing them to compete against countries that undervalue their currency, violate labor laws, abuse human rights, and degrade the environment.

This year alone, the trade deficit stands to cost us over 3 percent of our gross domestic product. That's a loss of more than $400 billion per year. We are exporting opportunity and importing unemployment.

To add insult to injury, our tax code rewards companies that ship jobs overseas. America is losing its manufacturing base, while local businesses struggle to compete with the low price of foreign-made goods. And because of lax standards abroad and inadequate inspection at home, many of the products we are importing are dangerous or even deadly.

Congressional inaction is costing our nation millions of jobs. I propose five steps to reform our trade policy and restore our economic strength:

  1. Combat currency manipulators. That is the label we should attach to countries like China. China is keeping the yuan artificially low - devaluing it by perhaps 40 percent - in order to make its products cheaper and ours more expensive. The U.S. government should impose countervailing duties to level the playing field.
  2. Negotiate and enforce trade agreements that promote American competitiveness, protect the environment, and preserve the rights of workers.
  3. Retool the tax code to encourage investments in American producers and American workers.
  4. Enforce and strengthen laws against intellectual property theft, dumping, illegal boycotts, and other predatory trade practices.
  5. Require that imported goods be properly labeled and meet U.S. food and product safety standards.

I believe in competition. I know that in a fair fight, America can win. But this fight isn't fair. As our next U.S. Senator, I will push to put our trade policy back on track and more Americans back to work.