CLEVELAND — As trade talks with China are set to resume in Washington in the midst of a 10-month war of escalating tariffs, Ohio Senator Rob Portman is hopeful this latest attempt to fix the problems that have existed for years will finally be addressed.
"I met with the president last week on the trade issue and I believe we're very close to an agreement with China," Portman told News 5 ahead of the administrations plan to raise tariffs even further Friday morning. Portman recognizes the tariffs imposed last summer were strategically necessary to get the attention of the Chinese government and bring them to the table.
"I think it's going to work because it seems to have worked so far to get them to make concessions in the negotiations they have never made before. So my hope is this will come to fruition in the next couple of weeks."
On Sunday the president tweeted that the tariffs have been good for the U.S. economy bringing billions into the U.S. Treasury, but economists argue those tariffs are paid not by the government of China but by U.S. consumers.
And while the tariffs on steel imported from China has been good for the U.S. steel industry adding an estimated 12,000 jobs over the last year, it is an industry that employs fewer than 200,000 people. Workers that are outnumbered 80 to 1 by those employed by companies that use steel and aluminum in their products. Companies that are now paying an estimated 10% more for steel costing U.S. consumers $11.5 billion.
Math that brings the cost of each of those new steel jobs at $900,000 a job.
"I do think that China needs to play by the rules and they haven't both with regards to stealing our intellectual property like manufacturing processes but also the imbalance in trade because they subsidize so many of their products and they sell them at below their costs which is called dumping," Portman said.
"So we need to address those issues and my sense is we're very close to that agreement. If we can get there it would be great for us, great for Ohio workers, great for Ohio farmers."
Ohio farmers have been caught in the middle of this trade war. A year ago at this time they were shipping more than a third of their soybean crop each year to China. Since tariffs were imposed last summer that market has essentially dried up leaving them now to the point where they are getting less than half for their crops what they got in 2012.
On Friday morning President Trump tweeted that U.S. will buy agricultural products from American farmers in larger amounts that China ever did and ship them off to poor and starving countries.
"China was the single biggest market for those soybeans," Portman said. "We've got to reopen that market."