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Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown Sees Common Ground With Trump On Trade


Sherrod Brown is the Democratic senator from Ohio, and he joins us now from Avon, Ohio.

Senator, thanks very much for being with us.

SHERROD BROWN: Good to be back. Thank you, Scott.

SIMON: Ohio voted for Donald Trump. What did he, perhaps, get about your state and other states in the upper Midwest that Hillary Rodham Clinton and other Democrats maybe didn't?

BROWN: Well, I think he spoke to a dissatisfaction and an unhappiness that millions of workers around our country feel that our trade policy, our tax policy isn't working for workers, for communities. We've seen too many cities in our state, like Mansfield, Ohio, where I grew up, that have lost far too many jobs, partly to globalization, partly to technology.

The diagnosis of the president-elect was correct. I don't know that he has much yet to say about what the treatment will be. But I've already called the president-elect's transition staff on trade and told them I want to help renegotiate NAFTA and help pull out of Trans-Pacific Partnership and work more aggressively on trade enforcement.

SIMON: You see opportunities to work together there?

BROWN: Yeah, I see opportunities. But I also saw a president-elect who said the right things to the - on election night and then to President Obama and then made his top political adviser, whose office will be next to his - I saw him bring somebody that's an out-and-out racist anti-Semite. And that's more than disappointing in a country as pluralistic as ours, that he would bring on somebody that even conservative commentators are saying is a bigot.

SIMON: You're talking about Steve Bannon, who's been appointed chief strategist at the White House. And he headed Breitbart News. Senator Brown, as you know, it's not just a matter of jobs going to China and Mexico. More jobs might be lost to automation, and that's not a function of trade deals. How do you think you can deal with that?

BROWN: Well, we have a trade policy that says shut down production in Garfield Heights or Toledo, Ohio, and move it to China and get a tax break. I don't pretend that's the only issue that we need to deal with. We need to do things like raising the minimum wage. We need to defend the overtime rule. We need to do better with job training and education and actually do public investment. I will work with President Trump on that when it comes to that. But if his solution is more tax cuts for the rich and weakening rules on Wall Street and the oil industry, which is what Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell want to do, then I'll fight like hell for my state.

SIMON: Senator Brown, you wrote a piece for The New York Times this week in which you said you don't like that term Rust Belt. And I have used it, and I apologize for using it. You make a lot of sense. But tell us what you don't like about that term.

BROWN: Well, no apologies necessary - I think we've all used it over the years. But that time has passed in my mind. I think you start with this - that calling my region Rust Belt demeans the dignity of work. And what I've found from Trump voters and Clinton voters alike, working-class, whether they're white or black or Latino, is they think that people on the coasts and upper-income people often don't understand how important these workers' work actually is.

SIMON: Sherrod Brown, the Democratic senator from Ohio.

Thanks so much for being with us.

BROWN: Always a pleasure. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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