Rob Portman on Free Trade

Republican Jr Senator; previously Representative (OH-2)


Negotiated fast-track under Bush; but slowing it under Obama

Senator Ron Wyden [D-OR] has become the White House's chief congressional ally on free trade, helping Pres. Obama and the US Trade Representative push for a bill to streamline the passage of trade deals, alienating liberal activists. Wyden is even up against some key Republicans, including former US Trade Representative Rob Portman, who was once in charge of negotiating such treaties under Pres. Bush. Now a senator from Ohio, he's teamed up with Sen. Chuck Schumer [D-NY] to put fast track on a slower track by requiring treaties to include enforceable prohibitions against countries' suppressing their currencies to gain a competitive advantage--a move the Treasury Secretary warned in a letter would "likely derail" a Pacific trade deal. Steelmakers and automakers favor the Portman amendment, which he says he'll bring to the floor after it failed in committee. "It's about how to say with a straight face to the people who we're hired by, 'This is going to be good for you,'?" Portman said.
Source: Bloomberg.com coverage of 2016 Ohio Senate race , May 2, 2015

Pass more trade agreements to increase Ohio exports

On trade, Portman favors passing more trade agreements to increase Ohio exports and encouraging the Obama administration to get tough on China over currency manipulation. Fisher insists that trade agreements should be fair and accused Portman of not doing enough to enforce existing trade agreements when he served as President George W. Bush's trade representative.
Source: Dayton Daily News coverage of 2010 Ohio Senate debate , Oct 13, 2010

Served as trade representative under Pres. George W. Bush

The candidates challenged each other over jobs and taxes and who is best able to help revive Ohio's battered economy.

Fisher said Portman has backed trade policies that have sent Ohio jobs overseas. He repeatedly sought to tie Portman to economic policies of former President George W. Bush, in whose administration Portman served as trade representative.

Portman said Fisher's proposals would mean job-killing higher taxes. "You can't continue to raise taxes," he said.

Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland implemented a tax cut in 2005 that resulted in state income taxes that are 16.8 percent less than they were in 2004, said a spokeswoman for Fisher, Ohio's lieutenant governor [under Strickland].

Source: Business Week coverage of 2010 Ohio Senate debate , Oct 8, 2010

Steadfast proponent of the power of open markets

Ambassador Portman will be carrying on the superb work done by [the previous] U.S. Trade Representative, working with Congress to pass trade promotion authority. Weíve completed free trade agreements with 12 nations on 5 continents, opening a combined market of 124 million consumers for Americaís farmers, small businesses and manufacturers.

Ambassador Portman is the right man to carry on this important work. He has a great record as a champion of free and fair trade. In his early days as an attorney, he specialized in international trade law. Throughout his time in Congress, he built a reputation as a steadfast proponent of the power of open markets to spread hope and prosperity around the world. As an Ohioan, Rob knows how much American farmers and workers depend on our export markets and how the expansion of agreements around the world can contribute to our economy here at home.

Source: Pres. Bush comments at USTR Ceremony , May 17, 2005

Supports Central American & Dominican Republic trade

Our first opportunity to open new markets is the Central American and Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement. Itís a classic win-win situation. We have the opportunity here to open new markets for our workers, for our farmers, for our service providers, while, at the same time, leveling the playing field with a region that already enjoys mostly duty-free access to the United States. At the same time, we can help lift people out of poverty in Central America and the Dominican Republic, and we can help solidify those fragile democracies and staunch allies.

This is a situation where the Congress should have an incentive to move, and move quickly, to approve the agreement, because itís good for our workers & farmers, service providers, and itís also good for those countries. If we turn down this agreement, we are taking away opportunities for our workers, and we are turning our backs on good neighbors who need our help.

Source: Comments at USTR Ceremony , May 17, 2005

Voted YES on implementing US-Australia Free Trade Agreement.

United States-Australia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act: implementing free trade with protections for the domestic textile and apparel industries.
Reference: Bill sponsored by Rep Tom DeLay [R, TX-22]; Bill H.R.4759 ; vote number 2004-375 on Jul 14, 2004

Voted YES on implementing US-Singapore free trade agreement.

Vote to pass a bill that would put into effect a trade agreement between the United States and Singapore. The trade agreement would reduce tariffs and trade barriers between the United States and Singapore. The agreement would remove tariffs on goods and duties on textiles, and open markets for services The agreement would also establish intellectual property, environmental and labor standards.
Reference: US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement; Bill HR 2739 ; vote number 2003-432 on Jul 24, 2003

Voted YES on implementing free trade agreement with Chile.

United States-Chile Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act: Vote to pass a bill that would put into effect a trade agreement between the US and Chile. The agreement would reduce tariffs and trade barriers between the US and Chile. The trade pact would decrease duties and tariffs on agricultural and textile products. It would also open markets for services. The trade pact would establish intellectual property safeguards and would call for enforcement of environmental and labor standards.
Reference: Bill sponsored by DeLay, R-TX; Bill HR 2738 ; vote number 2003-436 on Jul 24, 2003

Voted NO on withdrawing from the WTO.

Vote on withdrawing Congressional approval from the agreement establishing the World Trade Organization [WTO].
Reference: Resolution sponsored by Paul, R-TX; Bill H J Res 90 ; vote number 2000-310 on Jun 21, 2000

Voted YES on 'Fast Track' authority for trade agreements.

Vote to establish negotiating objectives for trade agreements between the United States and foreign countries and renew 'fast track' authority for the President.
Reference: Bill introduced by Archer, R-TX.; Bill HR 2621 ; vote number 1998-466 on Sep 25, 1998

Rated 56% by CATO, indicating a mixed record on trade issues.

Portman scores 56% by CATO on senior issues

The mission of the Cato Institute Center for Trade Policy Studies is to increase public understanding of the benefits of free trade and the costs of protectionism.

The Cato Trade Center focuses not only on U.S. protectionism, but also on trade barriers around the world. Cato scholars examine how the negotiation of multilateral, regional, and bilateral trade agreements can reduce trade barriers and provide institutional support for open markets. Not all trade agreements, however, lead to genuine liberalization. In this regard, Trade Center studies scrutinize whether purportedly market-opening accords actually seek to dictate marketplace results, or increase bureaucratic interference in the economy as a condition of market access.

Studies by Cato Trade Center scholars show that the United States is most effective in encouraging open markets abroad when it leads by example. The relative openness and consequent strength of the U.S. economy already lend powerful support to the worldwide trend toward embracing open markets. Consistent adherence by the United States to free trade principles would give this trend even greater momentum. Thus, Cato scholars have found that unilateral liberalization supports rather than undermines productive trade negotiations.

Scholars at the Cato Trade Center aim at nothing less than changing the terms of the trade policy debate: away from the current mercantilist preoccupation with trade balances, and toward a recognition that open markets are their own reward.

The following ratings are based on the votes the organization considered most important; the numbers reflect the percentage of time the representative voted the organization's preferred position.

Source: CATO website 02n-CATO on Dec 31, 2002

Sponsored sugar quotas & import tariffs to stabilize prices.

Portman co-sponsored Sugar Reform Act

Congressional Summary:Sugar Reform Act:

Proponent's argument for bill:(Senators' opinions reported on politico.com) "We subsidize a handful of wealthy sugar growers at the expense of everybody in America," said Sen. Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.), whose home state boasts the chocolate giant, Hershey's. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), warned her colleagues against unraveling the commodity coalition behind the farm bill: "We forget that this is much bigger than a sugar program. It's much bigger than any one single commodity. When you single out one commodity, you threaten the effectiveness of the overall farm bill."

Opponent's argument against bill:(Food and Business News, May 2013): Users claim the sugar program nearly doubles the price of sugar to US consumers and has resulted in lost jobs as some candy manufacturers have moved operations to other countries. Producers claim the program has resulted in more stable sugar supplies, provides a safety net for growers and that world prices are often lower because of subsidies in origin countries, which would put US growers at a disadvantage should import restrictions be lifted. Producers also note that US sugar prices have declined more than 50% from late 2011 highs. They also maintain that jobs have been lost or moved out of the US for reasons other than sugar prices, mainly labor and health care costs, noting that candy makers' profits have been strong in recent years.

Source: S.345/ H.R.693 13-S345 on Feb 14, 2013

Rated 88% by the USAE, indicating support for trade engagement.

Portman scores 88% by USA*Engage on trade issues

Ratings by USA*Engage indicate support for trade engagement or trade sanctions. The organization's self-description: "USA*Engage is concerned about the proliferation of unilateral foreign policy sanctions at the federal, state and local level. Despite the fact that broad trade-based unilateral sanctions rarely achieve our foreign policy goals, they continue to have political appeal. Unilateral sanctions give the impression that the United States is 'doing something,' while American workers, farmers and businesses absorb the costs."

VoteMatch scoring for the USA*Engage ratings is as follows :

Source: USA*Engage 2011-2012 ratings on Congress and politicians 2012-USAE on Dec 31, 2012

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Page last updated: Jun 15, 2016