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Ford Motor Co. President of the Americas Joe Hinrichs on Tuesday voiced support for an amendment to a free trade deal that would deal with currency manipulation.

Hinrichs spoke Tuesday at the annual Automotive Industry Breakfast in Detroit. He has long been critical of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation free trade deal accounting for 40 percent of the world's economy, because it does not take a hard enough stance on currency manipulation and other issues.

Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, plan to introduce an amendment that addresses currency.

“We believe in free trade but we want to see the issue of currency addressed so that we can move forward and protect jobs in America for the future,” Hinrichs said. “We’re certainly very supportive of what Sens. Portman and Stabenow have been working on around currency manipulation and language that has some teeth in it regarding that.”

Currency manipulation, also known as exchange rate intervention, is when a country uses its own currency and buys up foreign reserves like the U.S. dollar, weakening its own currency. A weak currency cheapens the price of a country's exports, making them more attractive to international buyers by undercutting competitors.

“It takes time for trade agreements to have an impact,” Hinrichs said. “As the leading exporter of vehicles outside of the U.S., we’re very interested to make sure we have a level playing field for business here and in the rest of the markets.”

A good trade agreement is one reason why Ford chose Mexico last week for a $2.5 billion investment in a new engine and transmission plant.

Hinrichs said Ford is a global company, and it’s important for them to have powertrain facilities “in a location that’s competitive on cost and trade agreements.”

“The new engines and transmissions are to be exported around the world,” he said. “It’s a good place to be to ship product around the world.”

United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams was critical of the move, saying Ford and other automakers who have invested there were taking advantage of “slave-like wages and corruption.”

Hinrichs noted Ford has invested more than $6 billion and created more than 15,000 U.S. jobs — exceeding promises it made during the 2011 UAW contract negotiations. “We will continue to invest heavily in the U.S.,” he said.

mmartinez@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2401

Twitter.com/MikeMartinez_DN

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