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Free Trade and Good Jobs

June 02, 2015

The federal government recently revised its estimate of first-quarter GDP growth from a 0.2 percent increase to a 0.7 percent decrease. And one of the biggest drags was a growing trade deficit. The U.S. economy is slowing, and exports are falling as the U.S. stands still on trade. So the takeaway is pretty simple: If we want to expand opportunity in America, we need to expand American trade with other countries.

This latest news only underscores what Chairman Ryan said in a letter to his Republican colleagues yesterday: “More trade means more jobs—and better-paying jobs.” One in five American jobs depends on trade, and they pay 18 percent more on average. And in case anyone needs more convincing, 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside the U.S. So overseas markets can be a huge source of growth.

Case in point: the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The U.S. is currently negotiating a historic trade agreement with 11 other countries on the Pacific Rim. According to the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, the U.S. sold $638 billion of manufactured goods to these countries last year. But there are still many high trade barriers blocking key American exports.

For instance, tariffs on American cars reach as high as 70 percent; on building products, up to 60 percent; on textiles, up to 100 percent. American farmers face barriers just as frustrating. Tariffs on U.S. dairy products reach as high as over 300 percent; on pork products, over 300 percent; and on rice, up to 778 percent.

Completing the TPP would lower these tariffs and therefore lower prices for American products in TPP countries. As a result, American farmers and manufacturers would compete on a level the playing field. And the more products America sells overseas, the more jobs we’ll create in the U.S.

But before we can complete TPP, we need to establish TPA or trade promotion authority. Only TPA will give the U.S. the leverage it needs to close the deal, and so only TPA will win a fair deal for America’s workers. The stakes are high, and that’s why it’s so crucial for Congress to establish TPA.