Talk about trade and tax reform was prominent Monday as regional business, labor, community and political leaders met to discuss ways to revitalize America's manufacturing.
"We need trade reform through addressing currency manipulation and faulty trade agreements" that prompt American companies to ship jobs overseas, said Michael Stumo, chief executive officer of the Coalition for a Prosperous America, which sponsored a manufacturing summit in Rootstown that attracted more than 170 attendees.
Stumo pointed to a value-added tax as a way to give U.S. companies incentive to keep production in America.
He said 156 countries have some sort of value-added tax, which makes American goods more expensive when shipped abroad.
"From China to Brazil to Germany, they have a value-added tax of 16 percent to 19 percent on our goods. It's the biggest unfair trade practice in the world. It's hard to overcome, and our leaders are doing nothing," he said.
Stumo called revitalizing manufacturing an issue that crosses party lines, noting that U.S. Rep. Timothy J. Ryan, D-Niles, and U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, served as co-chairmen of the event.
Ryan said China's practice of keeping its currency undervalued versus the dollar, making its goods cheaper in the U.S., and unfair trade policies "have destroyed millions of good-paying American jobs."
He called for more investment in education and infrastructure to "support the high-end, advance manufacturing jobs of tomorrow."
Gary Steinbeck, director of the United Steelworkers subdistrict office in Niles, said he sees a "real sense of urgency on the part of companies and labor" of the need to revitalize manufacturing.
Criticizing proposed new trade agreements with South Korea, Columbia and Panama, he called for enforcement of trade laws, more investment in infrastructure and elimination of tax breaks for the "ultra wealthy and corporations."