Merkley Visits Abandoned Factory in Oregon to Highlight Need for a Level Playing Field for American Manufacturers
Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley stood in front of the abandoned Blue Heron paper mill in Oregon City Friday to highlight legislation that he introduced this week that would crack down on unfair trade practices, level the playing field for American manufacturers and help create middle class jobs.
“Just a few years ago the Blue Heron Mill behind me was employing hundreds of Oregonians and making paper here in America. Now it is empty and those Oregonians who once worked here are out of work,” said Merkley. “This underscores how important it is that we have trade policies that create a level playing field for American manufacturing. We must stop providing subsidies to companies that ship jobs overseas.”
Senator Merkley was joined at today’s event by Oregonians who used to work in paper mills in Oregon but saw their mills shut down, dismantled and shipped overseas to countries that didn’t require safety measures or environmental protections and where workers were paid far less.
The “Level the Playing Field in Global Trade Act” would ensure when other countries undercut American manufacturers by selling products produced under conditions where workers are paid sub-standard wages, or where workplace safety practices and environmental protections aren’t maintained, those failures are treated as unfair subsidies and their imports are penalized. The bill would require that new trade agreements include enforceable mandates that foreign manufacturers pay adequate wages, maintain safe work places, and abide by environmental standards. Companies or countries that fail to do so would have to pay anti-dumping penalties as they do for any other illegal subsidy under current law.
Over the last 15 years, countries like China have reaped the benefits of trade deals without upholding their end of the bargain. This lack of accountability has contributed to the shuttering of tens of thousands of American factories and the loss of millions of American manufacturing jobs.
As Congress begins to debate potential Trade Promotion Authority legislation and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Level the Playing Field in Global Trade Act would, for the first time, require that any new trade deals considered under Trade Promotion Authority recognize egregious environmental and labor practices as a form of illegal subsidy that can be remedied by U.S. duties. It would also reward companies that adhere to high global standards by creating new trade enforcement incentives.