March 30, 2016
The Weekly Standard
Donald Trump has undeniably brought the issue of trade with China to the national stage. With Trump's good odds at becoming the GOP nominee, down-ballot candidates in the House and the Senate are indeed having to grapple with a changed landscape.
Ohio is home to one of the GOP's most vulnerable Senate incumbents, Rob Portman, who was George W. Bush's trade representative. Ohio's other senator is Sherrod Brown, who is but one tick to the right of Bernie Sanders, and author of the book Myths of Free Trade: Why American Trade Policy Has Failed.
Challenging Portman, who recently announced his opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership, is former governor Ted Strickland. Strickland hit Portman for his opposition to the TPP, saying "For decades, Senator Rob Portman has turned his back on Ohio's workers every chance he got — prioritizing China's interests at the expense of our working families."
He's even gone so far as to run an ad calling Portman "The best senator China has ever had."
Strickland, after being put out of a job by John Kasich in 2010, has been biding his time as president of the liberal Center for American Progress Action Fund, all the while serving on the governor's council of the oddly named "Bipartisan Policy Center."
Bashing free trade has always been popular in Ohio as an easy way to explain away its economic woes, and with the rise of Trump and Sanders, it's not a bad line of attack for Strickland to take. But unlike Sherrod Brown, Ted Strickland has a history of being pro free trade with China.
While he was a member of the House of Representatives, Strickland voted twice to give China the coveted "most favored nation" status. Which, of course, is odd since Strickland has attacked others, including Portman, for doing the same thing.
And, in his last few years as a member of the House, Strickland opposed efforts to hold China accountable on trade. One measure, which Strickland opposed not once but twice, would have created "mechanisms to ensure that China abides by previous trade agreement commitments, including creating a system to monitor compliance with trade obligations on intellectual property rights, market access for U.S. goods, services and agriculture and the accounting of Chinese subsidies."
...Portman, who has made the issue of China's manipulation of currency (which, to be fair, America does too) a pet issue, is fighting back with a new ad.