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Senate Democrats push trade as latest policy platform

As the Senate's August recess approaches, Democrats are looking ahead to the next policy item on their agenda — trade. 

On Wednesday morning, Senate Democrats will roll out their latest trade policy proposals. Among them are the creation of the American Jobs Security Council -- an entity that can veto proposed foreign purchases of U.S. companies -- along with an independent trade prosecutor to go after foreign countries so companies don't need to rely on the World Trade Organization, and principles for any renegotiation of the controversial North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Trade is one piece of the Democrats' tagline heading into the 2018 midterms, which is, "A Better Deal: Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Wages." Democrats argue better trade deals will raise incomes and create more well-paying jobs for low and middle-income Americans. 

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The proposed American Jobs Security Council would closely examine foreign companies' plans to acquire U.S. companies, and have the authority to stop any purchases that would distort the market or lead to fewer U.S. jobs. The council would take a particular interest in any detrimental effects to economically distressed industries and regions. 

The independent trade prosecutor would be tasked with revamping the trade enforcement system to evaluate petitions of alleged trade violations filed by unions, businesses and trade associations. It would coordinate with the Department of Labor, Department of Agriculture and Department of Commerce, but operate with its own authority. Foreign nations found in violation of U.S. policies would face restrictions to U.S. market access or other punishments. Senate Democrats also argue that NAFTA, if it is renegotiated, should support more American jobs and higher wages, and protect workers' health and safety. 

Other components of the Democrats' plan includes proposals that all taxpayer-funded public works and infrastructure projects strictly use U.S. companies for work, and that Congress pass laws punishing countries that manipulate their currency and penalize U.S. companies sending jobs and factories overseas through taxes. 

Democrats have searched for an on-key economic message to rally around in 2018, the first election since President Trump took office. 

But trade is one area in which Democrats and Mr. Trump might find some common ground. In the past, the president has urged a tougher stance on China for manipulating currency, and on companies that leave the U.S. for foreign soil. And one of the first things he did as president was to withdraw from the massive Trans Pacific Partnership, a multilateral trade deal with 11 Pacific Rim countries. Mr. Trump has also said on several occasions that he wants to negotiate "great" new bilateral trade deals with other countries.

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