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Senator Rob Portman Values NAFTA for Ohio Exporters

US Senator Rob Portman in the lobby of the General Motors Parma Metal Center (photo Sulayne Barrett)

While President Trump this week threatened to eliminate the North American Free Trade Agreement, auto workers in Ohio told US Senator Rob Portman that it has value.  

Ford, Chrysler, GM, and Honda -- they all have factories in Ohio and Republican Rob Portman is visiting many of them this week.  After a tour of the GM Metal plant in Parma the senator wanted to talk about cutting corporate taxes.  But he agreed the talks this week to renegotiate NAFTA is the elephant in the room.

“That did come up today.”   

There are 108,000 Ohioans working in the auto industry.  Portman says the 1300 who work in Parma are making products that go to Canada and Mexico, and sometimes come back as completed cars.

"We gotta be sure the NAFTA agreement is updated.  It needs to be modernized," said Portman.  "I’ve called for that, but we gotta be sure while we do it we don’t ruin the advantages we get here in Ohio from exporting to Canada and Mexico.  Half of our exports here in Ohio go to those two countries.  Canada is our biggest export partner."  

By updating NAFTA, Portman says the trade agreement should include E-commerce as well as labor and environmental standards. 

Portman was the US Trade Representative under George W. Bush.  He says it helps that today’s Representative is another Ohioan, Bob Lighthizer, a graduate of Gilmour Academy in Gates Mills. 


On President Trump's health care executive order:

While visiting the GM Metal plant, Portman also took questions on the president's executive order which could dismantle Obamacare.  The Republican senator took a different stance than his Democratic counterpart.  

In a written statement, Senator Sherrod Brown said the executive order would “destabilize the insurance market and increase costs,” especially for those who are older and sicker.  “Instead of employing backdoor tactics meant to undermine important healthcare protections, President Trump should come to the table with members of both parties to pursue meaningful healthcare reform that benefits Ohioans.”

Republican Rob Portman said he supports giving states more control.

“Part of it is to tell the states that you can be more flexible in how you implement this program so the we can reduce costs.  For instance, the state could set up a risk pool for high-risk individuals,” said Portman.

The president’s executive order would allow individuals to join so-called “association health plans” that could offer fewer benefits and lower premiums.

Portman said he is working with a bi-partisan group of legislators to lower the cost of premiums.  

He said he wants to keep one element of Obamacare: the government subsidy to insurance companies to lower premiums for the poor.  Today, the White House decided to end those subsidy payments.


On a bump stock ban:

California Senator Dianne Feinstein has proposed a bill that would ban bump-stocks, the device that the Las Vegas shooter used to turn a semi-automatic rifle into a virtual machine gun.  US Senator Rob Portman said today they are “not appropriate.”

“And that’s the issue here,” said Portman.  “These automatic weapons are prohibited unless you have a special license and then a special background check and I support that.  So I don’t think you should be able to take a weapon that is not automatic and make it automatic by buying something online.” 

Portman said the best way to ban them may be to follow the NRA proposal that the devices be regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, rather than through legislation.