I've finished watching the twentieth, and possibly final, Democratic candidate debate. For someone like me who follows economic and jobs issues closely, the debate was both fascinating and frustrating.
First, the fascinating. Both Senator Obama and Senator Clinton said they would renegotiate the job-killing North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) or exit it if our trading partners did not accept changes. That's a big development, and a welcome one, for Ohio's workers.
But one important economic issue was overlooked by the moderators and candidates alike: China. The word "China" wasn't even mentioned until three minutes before the end of the debate. No issue will have a greater impact on the future prospects of America's workers over the next couple of decades. Our grossly imbalanced trade relationship with China has cost America more than 1.8 million jobs from 2001-2006; 66,000 in Ohio alone.
Worse yet, these job losses are aided by Washington's complicity. Congress and the administration have the power to stop China's cheating and unfair trade practices, but so far, they have sat on their hands. What would a President Obama or a President Clinton do to ensure that American workers and businesses have the same opportunity to compete? Sadly, we still don't know.
No issue matters more to Ohio's economic future. China subsidizes its industries at the expense of our businesses. This is illegal under our trade laws, but no one in Washington has acted to stop it. China dumps its products into our market at below-market prices to undercut our producers. Again, it's an illegal practice, but this administration hasn't done enough to stop it. China manipulates its currency to gain a trade advantage, making its products roughly forty percent cheaper to buy in the U.S., and American products about forty percent more expensive to sell in China. This is a violation of China's trade commitments, but other than endless dialogue with China, this administration has refused to hold China accountable.
Sure, some American consumers enjoy cheap goods from China, but they come with a higher price that is not reflected on the price tag. Millions of lost jobs, dozens of recalls of unsafe and toxic consumer products and toys, a massive U.S. debt that is held by China, and diminished opportunities for good-paying jobs for our next generation.
Ohio voters deserve an answer. Which candidate will hold China accountable for its unfair trade practices and give American workers an opportunity to compete? A week before the primary, we cannot yet say.