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Moving America Forward: Expanding U.S. Trade

January 27, 2015

This afternoon, the House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on United States trade policy, with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman. It’s an opportunity to explore a critical component of a pro-growth economic agenda: expanding export markets for American-made goods and services.

The vast majority of the world’s consumers live beyond our borders, and we need to break down economic barriers so American farmers, ranchers, and businesses—large and small—can sell more of their products abroad. The United States is currently negotiating several trade agreements with countries around the world. There would be many benefits to completing the deals, but they start with one major benefit: jobs.

Trade supports jobs.

Trade already supports more than 38 million American jobs. By breaking down barriers that make it more expensive to export American goods and services, U.S. companies can sell more products, expand operations, and hire more American workers. Right now, the U.S. is pursuing several trade agreements, including significant deals in the Asia-Pacific region and in Europe; the two of them would give America access to 1 billion more customers. And more customers means more American jobs, because we know U.S. businesses can compete with anyone in the world. Indeed, of all the countries that don’t have trade agreements with us, we have an enormous manufacturing trade deficit, while we have a surplus with the countries that do.

Trade makes America more competitive.

All the time, competing nations are working to break down trade barriers and put in place free trade agreements among themselves. If America isn’t doing the same, America is falling behind. As other nations are relieved of tariffs in new markets, their products become cheaper, and ours more expensive by comparison—making America less competitive. And rather than allow other nations to write the rules of the global economy, the United States must engage—to ensure other nations enforce property rights, live up to their trade obligations, respect human dignity, follow the rule of law, and compete with American farmers and businesses on a level playing field.

Trade strengthens U.S. foreign policy.

Economic cooperation is critical to a sound foreign policy. Trade agreements currently under negotiation would strengthen our economic ties in important areas around the world. While China is seeking to expand its influence, the Trans-Pacific Partnership would give the U.S. greater leverage in the Asia-Pacific region. Meanwhile, Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership would help to limit Russia’s economic reach in Europe.  Moving forward on trade means not only economic benefits, but a better U.S. standing in the world.

And first, we need trade promotion authority.

Of course, the United States should never settle for just any trade agreement; we should always strive for the best deal. That’s why passing Trade Promotion Authority—or TPA—is so important. TPA gives U.S. negotiators the strongest hand possible by presenting a united front between Congress and the administration. It empowers Congress by laying out clear negotiating objectives that lawmakers expect the administration to fulfill. And, along with mandating regular consultation and transparency, it ensures that, while Congress retains the final say, if the administration meets these objectives, an agreement will not be rewritten by Congress—allowing our negotiators to get the best bargain with our trading partners.

Trade—and expanding American exports—is fundamental to growing our economy and getting Americans back to work in good jobs. It’s fundamental to moving America forward, and that’s why the House Ways and Means Committee is making it a priority today.