Workers can win if China plays fairly

Troubling news emerged last week that could hurt workers in Marietta. For over a year, our nation has been engaged in international negotiations intended to help U.S. manufacturers gain better access to growing foreign markets. These negotiations aim to lower tariff levels on over 250 types of high tech and communications products, including on goods produced in Marietta. These commercial products are exported to customers around the world, supporting jobs here in Ohio.

One of those products is a special material called Liquid Crystal Polymers that is used in a range of IT devices from smart phones to mobile computing devices. These special products are compounded by Solvay Specialty Polymers in Marietta. Solvay’s Marietta facility employs nearly 300 workers, while a related facility just outside of Cincinnati run by Celanese Corporation employs many more. The materials they produce have been key to developing more powerful and portable smart phones and tablets to support our growing digital economy. In a typical smart phone, at least eight of the components are made using these special materials. And with the growing middle class in countries across Asia, there is vast potential to export smart phones while also supporting workers right here at home.

Access to those markets is now in danger because of concerning actions of the Chinese government. While countries from around the world have worked together to lower barriers to economic growth, China has done little, putting our efforts to export more products made in Marietta in jeopardy.

This delay concerns me, particularly since a number of Chinese businesses have engaged in a pattern of breaking trade rules in sectors across the board. Unfortunately, this is not the first time we have found ourselves at odds with the Chinese government in a trade dispute.

I have stood up against China’s attempts to steal our intellectual property and to illegally ship products into our country while flouting U.S. customs rules. I have also repeatedly stood up for Ohio workers when foreign competitors-often from China-illegally undercut U.S. prices in an attempt to hurt American manufacturing or provide illegal government subsidies.

Exporting American-made products around the world supports good-paying jobs in the Buckeye State. Last year, more than $2.8 billion worth of Ohio-manufactured goods were exported to China. And a quarter of Ohio manufacturing jobs are supported by exports. No doubt exports are vital to jobs here in Ohio, but our competitors must play by the rules.

We cannot leave American companies to face the unfair and often times illegal trade practices of foreign governments. That is why I recently asked the U.S. Trade Representative to prioritize these negotiations in order to provide needed aid to Ohio companies. I will continue to fight for workers in southeast Ohio and around the Buckeye State in their efforts to compete on a level playing field.

Workers in Marietta are doing their best to keep up with a competitive global economy. American companies can go toe-to-toe with anyone in a fair fight. That’s why Washington needs to stand behind companies like these and continue to support their efforts in the global marketplace.

Rob Portman represents Ohio in the United States Senate.