The Best Thing Congress Can Do for American Workers
We’ve heard a lot of talk in recent weeks about getting the American economy moving. From President Barack Obama’s State of the Union to the early stages of the 2016 campaign, leaders in both parties agree that it’s important to create jobs, invest in the future and expand opportunity. We have a simple solution that helps do all of that: We need to ease and expand our trade with the rest of the world.
This year, Congress and the president have a historic opportunity to enact legislation that will allow the United States to sell more goods and services to 95 percent of the world’s consumers who live outside the United States. With more than one in five American jobs dependent on trade, boosting U.S. exports and the jobs they support should be a top priority for policymakers. That is why we strongly urge Congress to act quickly to pass bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority legislation early this year.
Trade promotion authority is a constitutional partnership between Congress and the president that ensures the United States gets the best possible outcomes in trade agreements. It is a set of legislative procedures that strengthens Congress’ ability to tell the executive branch what the key negotiating objectives are in trade negotiations, which helps ensure trade agreements reflect congressional priorities. TPA also strengthens the role of Congress by ensuring close consultations with U.S. negotiators; promotes transparency through public consultations; and establishes procedures for Congress to carefully consider the agreements and give them an up or down vote. It’s been a key part of U.S. trade diplomacy since 1974 and is regularly renewed, but it expired in 2007. We cannot afford to be without it much longer.
The passage of TPA is critical to spur new economic opportunities for hundreds of thousands of America’s businesses and the millions of workers they employ. U.S. exports account for nearly 14 percent of America’s gross domestic product, and of the more than 300,000 U.S. exporters, 98 percent are small- and medium-sized businesses with fewer than 500 workers. These companies need access to markets outside the United States, which make up 80 percent of the world’s purchasing power, to maintain and grow their businesses.
TPA and the high-standard trade agreements it facilitates are vital to help American exporters. Manufacturers and service providers, farmers and ranchers — all need access to the world’s consumers to succeed in a highly competitive global marketplace.
And we know TPA works. The trade agreements put in place over the past several decades through now-expired TPA legislation have enabled America’s businesses, farmers and workers to compete more effectively in markets overseas. While our 20 current trade agreement partners represent just 10 percent of the global economy, they buy nearly half of all U.S. exports of goods. These 20 countries purchase 12 times more U.S. exports per capita than other countries. The United States even has a trade surplus with these countries. New and expanded U.S. trade agreements with other countries will help open markets and create strong rules for two-way trade, creating even more opportunities to drive U.S. growth and jobs.
The United States is currently pursuing one of the most robust trade agendas in decades, which includes the Trans-Pacific Partnership — an agreement that, once implemented, will enable American exporters to sell more goods and services to 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, such as Japan, Australia, Malaysia and New Zealand. The opportunity TPP promises is enormous, as two-way trade between the United States and these 11 countries supported more than 15 million American jobs in 2013. The TPP countries already account for nearly 40 percent of global GDP.
As seen in POLITICO.
By JOHN ENGLER, THOMAS J. DONOHUE, JAY TIMMONS and BOB STALLMAN