If Rob Portman wants to remind us what a patent failure he was as United States Trade Representative under President George W. Bush, he’s doing a “heckuva job.”
Portman is in the fight of political life this election cycle and he’s making sure the hardworking men and women of Ohio know that he’s on their side by cracking down on currency manipulation. “It is critical that any new trade agreement include effective tools to fight back against a practice that has resulted in the loss of millions of American jobs,” said Portman in a statement.
It sure sounds like a reasonable message, if you completely ignore the messenger. Portman simply has no standing to talk about protecting American workers. Here’s the top lines from Portman’s record as the George W. Bush’s principal advisor and negotiator on trade issues:
- The U.S. Trade Deficit Was The Greatest Since 1960 While Portman Served As Chinese Trade Representative.
- Under Portman The US Reached What At The Time Was “The Largest Deficit… Ever Incurred With A Single Country” With China.
- The Trade Deficit With China Increased By 21% On Rob Portman’s Watch As Bush’s Trade Czar
- As Trade Representative, Portman Released Review Of China Trade Policy – It “Did Not Propose Any Changes In Policy Or Law,” “Dismissed… The U.S. Trade Deficit With China,” And “Barely Touched On Currency Policy.”
The U.S. Trade Deficit Was The Greatest Since 1960 While Portman Served As Chinese Trade Representative. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the annual U.S. trade deficit was greater in the years 2005-06 than in any surrounding year between 1960 and 2014. [U.S. Census Bureau, Accessed 4/28/15]
Under Portman The US Reached What At The Time Was “The Largest Deficit… Ever Incurred With A Single Country” With China. According to the Houston Chroncile “Portman vowed to ‘use all options available’ to meet this goal. However, critics said the administration’s failure to aggressively prosecute China’s unfair trading practices contributed to last year’s record $725.8 billion trade deficit… The administration’s announcement came after news Fridaythat America’s trade deficit with China rose to $201.6 billion, the largest deficit the United States has ever incurred with a single country.” [Houston Chronicle, 2/15/06]
Politifact: The Trade Deficit With China Increased By 21% On Rob Portman’s Watch As Bush’s Trade Czar. According to Politifact, “To analyze the claim about the trade deficit, we turned to the Census Bureau, which tracks foreign trade statistics on a month-by-month and year-by-year basis. We looked at the time that Portman served as U.S. trade representative, which was from April 29, 2005, to May 26, 2006. We found that the trade deficit went up by almost $228 billion over that 13-month period. For comparison’s sake, we looked at the 13 months prior to Portman taking the job. We found that the trade deficit with China rose by about $189 million during that period. Comparing those two numbers, the cumulative trade deficit under Portman was about 21 percent higher than it was for the equivalent time period just before he took office. We didn’t see any direct disagreement on this point in the Portmancamp’s news release attacking the ad or in their e-mail interview with us. The release tries to deflect that ad by offering several examples of how Portman went after the Chinese on trade enforcement. But it doesn’t offer an alternate way of looking at trade deficit numbers. So while the term ‘exploded’ is a bit of an exaggeration, a 21 percent increase is nothing to sneeze at.” [PolitiFact, 9/9/10]
- Poltifact: It’s Fair To Say The Chinese Trade Deficit Growth Occurred “On Portman’s Watch” Because It’s Ultimately Fair To Judge A Candidate On Their Record, Even If There Are Additional Factors. According to Politifact, “This brings up the broader question of how much of the burden for these economic numbers should fall on anyone who holds Portman’s former positions. The president, Congress and other cabinet officials have a say in both areas, and broader economic trends shape the patterns as well. ‘There’s nothing a USTR can do about it when the primary cause is U.S. demand and a mercantilist Chinese exchange rate policy,’ said J.D. Foster, an economist at the conservative Heritage Foundation. On the other hand, the ad is careful to say that the economic developments occurred ‘on (Portman’s) watch,’ rather than that he was solely responsible for them. (That makes it safer than a prior Fisher claim that PolitiFact Ohio ruled False — that Portman was ‘the one who actually sucked the jobs out of the (Mahoning) Valley and sent them to China.’) So let’s review what we found. The ad overstated how big the jump in both statistics was, but in both cases, the numbers did increase significantly on Portman’s watch. And while we acknowledge that Portman isn’t the only factor — nor, perhaps, even the primary factor — in the course of both economic trends, we do think that in the middle of a campaign, challenging an opponent on his record in office is fair game.” [PolitiFact, 9/9/10]
As Trade Representative, Portman Released Review Of China Trade Policy – It “Did Not Propose Any Changes In Policy Or Law,” “Dismissed… The U.S. Trade Deficit With China,” And “Barely Touched On Currency Policy.” According to the Washington Post, “The vow came in a “top-to-bottom review” of U.S. trade policy toward China that Rob Portman, the U.S. trade representative, promised in April at his Senate confirmation hearing. The review did not propose any changes in policy or law; rather, it called for the establishment of special China-focused task forces and enforcement officers to pursue allegations that Beijing is violating trade rules… Democrats were harsh on the report, especially because it barely touched on China’s currency policy. By keeping the value of the Chinese yuan at a little over 8 yuan per dollar, Beijing allegedly gives its industries an unfair advantage in global markets. The currency issue is the purview of the U.S. Treasury, which released a separate report on the matter late last year, but Democrats attacked the USTR report anyway, on a variety of grounds… One issue that Portman dismissed as relatively unimportant was the U.S. trade deficit with China, which reached a record $201.6 billion last year — more than a quarter of the total trade gap.” [Washington Post, 2/15/06]
Published: Apr 30, 2015