What They're Saying: Congress Should Pass Trade Promotion Authority Now

WASHINGTON – As Congress gets ready to vote on the bipartisan trade promotion authority bill in the coming days, news outlets and prominent voices have spoken out in support of the need for a strong bill that empowers President Obama to negotiate tough and fair trade agreements. Following is a round up of excerpts from some recent pieces:

Editorial: Congress Should Pass 'Fast Track' On Trade

Minneapolis Star Tribune

Despite demonstrable benefits, free-trade agreements are controversial. But ideally the debate would be centered on the details of the proposed pact — not the negotiating tool being used to strike the best deal possible.

With that in mind, Congress should grant President Obama Trade Promotion Authority (TPA, or so-called “fast-track” status), which nearly every postwar president has received.

TPA is needed because no foreign leaders will take the domestic political risks necessary to ink an international trade pact if they perceive that beyond Obama they then have to negotiate with 535 members of Congress. These political risks usually involve reducing barriers to global goods and services, which can anger domestic protectionist constituencies. Only if foreign governments know that a free-trade agreement will get an eventual up-or-down vote in Congress will they make the necessary concessions.

Editorial: Exports Offer Hope For Stronger Economy

Harrison Daily

According to the latest Gallup poll, 58 percent of Americans believe that increased trade is "an opportunity for economic growth." Only one-third of Gallup's respondents view trade as "a threat to the economy." That's the highest vote of confidence in trade in two decades, and yet President Obama has encountered stiff resistance from his own party as he pushes for the reinstatement of Trade Promotion Authority.

TPA authorization is a first step in getting the United States back on track to enter trade agreements with a number of overseas partners. 

Editorial: Obama's Got It Right On Free-Trade Accord

Lowell Sun

Obama's trade pact isn't perfect, but it will dismantle existing trade barriers and draw like-minded nations together on myriad ecological, environmental, wildlife and security issues.

Massachusetts, which employs 365,000 workers in high-tech and life sciences industries, has a lot to gain.

"This (trade pact) is a huge opportunity not to be missed," Christopher Anderson, president of the Massachusetts High Technology Council, told The Boston Globe this week.

Congress should accept the TPP accord with open arms. Strategically, it is sound in so many ways.

Guest View: Free Trade Is Vital For Farmers

Southern Illinoisan | Ron Gray

As an Illinois farmer, I have had the opportunity to serve in a market development organization that has been working to build overseas markets for U.S. grain for 55 years. This has taught me there are two ingredients that are critical to growing U.S. agriculture’s exports: a marketplace that has consistent and uniform rules for all, and a commitment to helping those who use our grain around the world seize the opportunities trade can provide.

Trade promotion authority will create the environment in which negotiators can work in good faith, knowing the best deal possible will be put before the U.S. Congress for a vote.

Given a marketplace with uniform rules and lower tariffs, we know we grow not only our own economy, but also the economies of our customers. We must be leaders in the trade negotiations happening now and in the future – which starts by being able to invite our partners to the table with confidence.

Op-ed: On Trade, Obama Is Right: Thomas Friedman

The Oregonian | Thomas L. Friedman

I strongly support President Barack Obama's efforts to conclude big, new trade-opening agreements with our Pacific allies, including Japan and Singapore, and with the whole European Union. But I don't support them just for economic reasons.

America's economic future "depends on being integrated with the world," said Ian Goldin, the director of the Oxford Martin School, specializing in globalization. "But the future also depends on being able to cooperate with friends to solve all kinds of other problems, from climate to fundamentalism." These trade agreements can help build trust, coordination and growth that tilt the balance in all these countries more toward global cooperation than "hunkering down in protectionism or nationalism and letting others, or nobody, write the rules."

As Obama told his liberal critics Friday: If we abandon this effort to expand trade on our terms, "China, the 800-pound gorilla in Asia will create its own set of rules," signing bilateral trade agreements one by one across Asia "that advantage Chinese companies and Chinese workers and ... reduce our access ... in the fastest-growing, most dynamic economic part of the world." But if we get the Pacific trade deal done, "China is going to have to adapt to this set of trade rules that we've established." If we fail to do that, he added, 20 years from now we'll "look back and regret it."

That's the only thing he got wrong. We will regret it much sooner.

A trade watershed?

Washington Post | Robert J. Samuelson 

The trouble with our trade debates is that people assume they're only about economics. 

Since World War II, U.S. trade policy has also been a pillar of U.S. foreign policy. In the early postwar decades, America encouraged trade with Europe and Japan — allowing more of their exports into the United States — as a way of achieving our political goals. Trade would build their prosperity, and their prosperity would promote democracy over communism. 

What endures is the marriage between economics and geopolitics. For the United States, the Trans-Pacific Partnership's overriding purpose is not to contain China but to create a counterweight to its rise.

We seek to reassure nations that we're still a Pacific power and that our proposal represents a useful framework to govern the region's trade. A collapse would leave a vacuum that China would most likely fill. Through its own trade agreements, China might fashion a system that gives its exports preferential access to foreign markets, while securing guaranteed supplies of raw materials (oil, grains, minerals). That's not in our interests.

So when opponents criticize the Trans-Pacific Partnership, they need to answer a simple question: compared to what?

The Digital Opportunity: Democratizing Trade For The 99 Percent

Progressive Policy Institute | Ed Gerwin 

Trade critics often charge that proposed trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) essentially serve the one percent—while harming virtually everyone else. But new trade pacts actually present a significant opportunity to drive more inclusive trade—especially by supporting the revolution in digitally enabled global commerce. 

In this policy brief, we explain why it is critical for America to lead in writing modern trade rules that promote the free flow of data and open digital commerce. And we highlight some of the many ways in which the 99 percent—from entrepreneurs and small businesses to consumers and communities—benefit from “democratized” trade in a global digital economy that is both open and fair.

Two Large U.S. Trade Talks May Go For Naught

San Antonio Express News | David Hendricks

Last week, four San Antonio businessmen connected to international trade were among about 60 people invited to the White House for briefings on the sweeping Asian-Pacific and U.S.-European trade negotiations. 

The administration reciprocated by sending a U.S. Commerce Department official to San Antonio for a Tuesday briefing on the talks.

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Tuesday said 37 percent of Americans say free trade with foreign countries has helped the United States, while 31 percent disagree.

The San Antonio business community certainly is foursquare behind both trade agreements. Opportunities for new markets are rare. U.S. companies should press even harder for TPA passage. Their future growth is at stake.

James Bacchus: Give Obama Ability To Get The Best Deals

Orlando Sentinel

Soon after my first election to the Congress, I volunteered, as a Democrat, to help secure trade-negotiating authority for a Republican, the first President George Bush.

I was a former trade negotiator for the United States. So I knew that every president, of whatever party, always needs the authority to negotiate international trade agreements. Otherwise, America will be left behind in the global economy.

True then. Truer now. Now, 35 percent of goods in the world cross borders — up from 20 percent when I was first elected to the Congress in 1990. Now, too, three-fourths of the U.S. economy and nearly one-third of U.S. exports consist of services.

More than one-third of all financial investments in the world are international transactions. One-fifth of Internet traffic crosses borders. Foreign direct investment is rising almost everywhere again after the financial crisis.

Ignore all of this by denying the president the ability to negotiate with other countries on trade and investment, and the rest of the world will keep turning and growing without us while the opportunities for brighter futures for Americans slip away.

Trade Promotion Authority Would Help NC Farmers Reach Full Potential

News & Observer| Peter Eckes And Paul Rea

There continues to be a growing demand for U.S. agricultural products around the world. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, three of North Carolina’s top agricultural products have experienced substantial export growth in recent years. Total U.S. exports of pork, chicken and soybeans all increased dramatically between 2005 and 2013: Soybean exports increased from $8.25 billion $21.5 billion, pork exports increased from $1.46 billion to $6 billion, and poultry exports increased from $3.1 billion $5.5 billion.

Across all products, U.S. agricultural exports had a record year in 2014, with exports reaching nearly $152.5 billion. While this demonstrates success, there is still room for improvement as new innovations such as those provided by BASF help make farmers more efficient and productive.

In addition to increased exports, expanded trade means more jobs. The U.S. trade representative estimates that U.S. agricultural exports support 929,000 jobs. This includes jobs both on the farm and off the farm in food processing, storage and transportation, as well as high-tech jobs like BASF has in Research Triangle Park. In order to bring more such jobs to North Carolina and improve access to foreign markets, Congress should pass Trade Promotion Authority.

Op-Ed: What Is Truly At Stake With TPA And TPP?
The Hill | Amb. Clayton Yeutter

TPP is being negotiated by Ambassador Froman and his outstanding team of civil servants at USTR.  They need fast track authority only because trade agreements should not be subject to amendment by 525 members of Congress.  But granting such authority to the administration in no way precludes Congress from rejecting TPP’s final work product should it be in the best interest of this country to do so. 

Much of the negative commentary on both TPA and TPP is inaccurate, misleading, and sometimes disingenuous.  The Congress should put it aside and concentrate on what is relevant and meaningful in this debate. 

What we do know is that in the absence of TPA there will be no TPP, and there’ll be no U.S. trade agreements of any consequence for years to come.  That might not affect my generation very much, but it would be devastating for our children and grandchildren. 

 …

Both TPA and TPP are elements of a winning trade strategy.  What we must do is get on with it.   The present “window of opportunity” will close soon.  Prime Minister Abe has courageously asserted his intent to open Japan’s highly protected agricultural markets.  This is a major key to wrapping up TPP, and we should take advantage of Abe’s political momentum.   Japanese prime ministers typically do not have lengthy tenures!

That calls for getting TPA done quickly, while also extending trade adjustment assistance (TAA), followed by fully supporting Ambassador Froman and his USTR team in bringing TPP to a successful conclusion – all in the next few months. 

Pritzker Calls Pacific Trade Deal A ‘Job Creator’ For U.S.
Wall Street Journal| Robbie Whelan 

On Friday, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, spoke by phone with WSJ Logistics Report from Los Angeles, where she was hosting a trade forum with Mr. Abe and Japanese and American business leaders about the proposed agreement, obstacles facing TPP, and U.S. trade in general.

A lightly-edited transcript of the interview follows:

Why is the passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership so crucial to President Obama’s trade agenda?

The TPP is about market access. It’s about the ability for U.S. business to be able to sell to companies that represent 40% of GDP. Remember, 96% of consumers are outside of the U.S. One of the things the president has recognized is we need greater access to global markets so our businesses can compete.…A third of our growth since 1999 has come from exports. We are going to see unprecedented growth in Asia over the next 20 years. Given the fact that the world is not standing still, the president recognizes that our companies, who employ our workers, have the opportunity to participate. And right now market access is a problem.

Poll shows Democratic support for trade
Portland Business Journal | Matthew Kish

Days ahead of President Obama's speech at Nike about a trade deal, a poll from the new group Oregon Jobs Through Trade shows Democratic support for trade.

The group polled 600 likely Democratic and non-affiliated voters. Ninety-one percent of Democrats polled said it is "important" to sell Oregon goods abroad. A majority said it was "very important."

"Trade in the Asia-Pacific region is critical to Oregon's economic future," said ECONorthwest President John Tapogna, in a news release announcing the poll's results. "The region is home to a rapidly expanding middle class and a key driver of global growth. The trade plan in Congress opens new markets and opportunities."

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