FREMONT - Democratic congressional candidate Robin Weirauch yesterday called for the renegotiation of international trade agreements with the goal of protecting jobs domestically.
Mrs. Weirauch said agreements meant to increase foreign trade by limiting tariffs and other traditional barriers actually launched a "race to the bottom," in which American companies shipped their work forces to countries with low wages.
"They've all been cookie-cutter agreements," said Mrs. Weirauch, speaking briefly at a news conference outside TRW Automotive's shuttered brake components plant in Fremont. "They shouldn't be creating a climate where it does more harm than good for American workers."
Mrs. Weirauch faces state Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green) in the Dec. 11 runoff election for the 5th District congressional seat, which became open after the Sept. 5 death of 10-term Republican Paul Gillmor.
Mr. Latta countered that agreements also should give American manufacturers greater access to global markets, which can supply domestic factories with more business and more profits, consequentially leading to more jobs in the community.
"We have to make sure that American goods can be sold overseas too," Mr. Latta said. "It's not a one-way street."
Many of Mrs. Weirauch's statements thus far have hinged on reshaping American foreign policy. When she declared her candidacy two months ago, Mrs. Weirauch favored a "clear and comprehensive exit strategy to begin to bring our servicemen and women home" from Iraq, although she has yet to outline what that strategy should be.
In contrast, Mr. Latta has advocated trusting the recommendations of the commanding generals in the war.
A poll of 713 registered voters released yesterday showed Ohioans are split along partisan lines over the war in Iraq. The Ohio Poll sponsored by the University of Cincinnati found that 46 percent of respondents believe the war is going well, while 53 percent see America's involvement in Iraq as unsuccessful.
"If a particular election comes down to where the candidates stand on the war in Iraq, the military effort in Iraq, what these results suggest are how important independent voters are going to be," said Eric Rademacher, co-director of the Ohio Poll.
Mrs. Weirauch said that if elected she would seek tax incentives for manufacturers whose products carry a "Made in the USA" label, explaining that current trade policies promote stagnant wages and unemployment.
But analysis by the Bureau of Labor Statistics raises questions about the accuracy of her conclusions. While Ohio and Sandusky County, where the TRW factory was located, have lost a substantial amount of industrial jobs, manufacturing wages are far from flat.
The average factory employee in Sandusky County was paid $41,881 last year, a 19 percent increase since 2001. And the typical factory employee in Ohio received $50,023 last year, a 17 percent increase since 2001.
That wage growth slightly outpaces gains in the dollar value of manufacturing statewide over the same period, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Contact Joshua Boak at: