Brown, Portman say NAFTA needs to be updated

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TOLEDO, Ohio (13abc Action News) - Ohio farmers are feeding off North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA.

The US Department of Agriculture says one-third of all corn and wheat and soybeans grown in Ohio is shipped to Mexico and Canada.

Overall US exports are up 35% since NAFTA took effect January 1, 1994.

In Ohio, that's more than 187,968 jobs supported by NAFTA.

Locally, an auto supplier like MAGNA, which makes parts for Jeep and Ford, has thrived under NAFTA, adding 450 jobs at its seven Ohio facilities.

Misti Rice, the director of government relations for MAGNA says, "A trade agreement is put in place to create an environment so that the region can become globally competitive.'

But President Trump is not a fan.

The president said, just before the renegotiation talks, "NAFTA's been a catastrophe for our country."

So the Trump administration is talking with Mexico and Canada about updating the agreement.

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) agrees saying, NAFTA has devastated manufacturing in Ohio.

Since 1994, Ohio has lost 139,000 NAFTA- related jobs, according to the advocacy group Public Citizen; most of those are manufacturing jobs.

But Brown says we have to create a deal that's good for all sides.

Senator Brown says, "You don't want this to be a zero sum game, we win, they lose, because they will walk away."

Senator Brown suggests a better deal includes a Buy America agreement, outsourcing restrictions, e-commerce rules and labor standards.

And Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), who has always supported NAFTA, says American industries need some help.

He says, "Auto is an example. I think we have an opportunity to make some improvements in terms of the auto trade with Mexico and Canada to get more production here."

Which could be good for Toledo automakers, if a new deal can be reached.

But president Trump has promised to kill the deal if he can't negotiate more favorable conditions for the United States.

However, both senators Portman and Brown say that's a negotiating tactic and not likely to happen.

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