By Rob Portman
Part of my job is to fight for American workers who are encountering unfair and illegal trade barriers in other countries. Even though those fights can sometimes go on for years, when we can create a level playing field for Ohioans and Ohio companies, everyone wins.
Ohio is home to countless innovative businesses, ranging from high tech job creators to advanced manufacturers and service providers. Since we compete in a global economy, many jobs at these Ohio companies depend on exporting products to customers around the world. In fact, over one quarter of Ohio manufacturing jobs are dependent on export sales.
I have visited over one hundred Ohio companies in the past few years and seen first-hand the innovative research, development, and advanced manufacturing that Buckeye State workers are doing every day. When these U.S. companies are able to access global customers, they support good-paying jobs at home. However, when our trading partners skirt international trade rules and engage in unfair trade practices to keep U.S. products out of their markets, we must step in to level the playing field.
One of these innovative Ohio job creators is Advanced Drainage Systems, a Columbus-based company that employs 700 Ohioans in eight facilities throughout our state in Findlay, London, Napoleon, New Miami, Pandora and Wooster. ADS is the world’s largest producer of corrugated high-density polyethylene or HDPE pipes used for drainage and sewage systems. ADS has employed Ohio workers for generations and is a recognized industry leader whose products are used throughout the United States and around the world.
In 2011, ADS alerted me to discriminatory treatment that their HDPE pipe products were facing in Mexico. Despite the fact that ADS’s products were among the best in the world, their products were being excluded from the Mexican drainage and sewage pipe market by Mexican authorities who were refusing to follow the mandatory certification standards in Mexican law. ADS had operated in the Mexican market for three years under Mexico’s established standards and certification procedures, before Mexican regulators without warning refused to apply their domestic laws and denied ADS products the needed government certification.
While operating in foreign markets requires companies to closely follow changing laws in those countries, ADS’s situation had a concerning twist. In 2012, Mexican regulators implemented a new standard for these pipes. The new standard required pipe producers to meet criteria tailored to aid Mexican companies, while shutting-out global competitors with more innovative products like Ohio-based ADS. That type of discrimination was a clear violation of international trade law and unfairly targeted Ohio workers. Unfortunately, the refusal to follow established Mexican law and the implementation of a subsequent unfair standard were only the tip of the iceberg in ADS’s quest to receive fair treatment in Mexico’s drainage and sewage pipe market, as they were compounded by delays and shifting requirements from the Mexican government.
I have worked closely with my Ohio colleagues—Senator Brown, Reps. Stivers, Tiberi and others—to stand up for ADS’s rights in Mexico. And recently, after years of intervention with U.S. and Mexican authorities, ADS finally received the three-year certification that is required by Mexican law that will allow it to sell its products to Mexican consumers. This victory was a big win for Ohio workers and our goal of ensuring a level playing field for all American companies. This ruling provides needed certainty for Ohio workers in the global marketplace.
While operating in global markets has enormous potential for Ohio workers, we must also make sure that our competitors are playing by the rules. When given an even playing field, Ohio workers are the best in the world. Ohio workers have unique skills and expertise to compete with anyone, and we must ensure that their ability to compete isn’t impeded by unfair government policies.
Rob Portman is a United States Senator from Ohio.