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The Time for TPA Is Now

June 03, 2015

Why now? What’s the urgency for trade promotion authority (TPA)? That’s the question some ask as the House moves toward a vote this month. The answer is, the world is watching. The world is moving ahead with or without us. And securing TPA later, even under a Republican president, doesn’t get any easier.

Without TPA Soon, Pending Trade Agreements Could Be Lost for Good

Right now, the United States is engaged in negotiations over important trade agreements that could give us greater access to 1 billion consumers around the world. That would mean more American-made products sold abroad, and it would mean more good jobs. But our allies and partners, particularly in Asia, are still waiting to make their last, best offers—the concessions that would really tear down the barriers to their markets. Why? They want to see that TPA is in place before making those hard decisions. They want to know they have a reliable negotiating partner. It’s a crucial time in the negotiations, and a failure to deliver TPA could imperil the agreement, perhaps forever. The United States would lose credibility, our allies would turn elsewhere for an alternative—China, most likely—and picking up the pieces in a few years would likely be impossible. It would, in short, be a failure of American leadership.

Without New Trade Agreements, We Are Falling Behind and China Is Advancing

And failure to close agreements now would come with real consequences. If we don’t secure new trade agreements, we are falling behind and ceding our leadership to nations that don’t share our commitment to free enterprise and the rule of law. As Chairman Ryan said just today, “The rules of the global economy are being written right now. . . . So who’s going to write them?” If not us, the answer in Asia is China, who is working actively to stack the deck in its favor. Standing still is not option. Our failure to engage in Asia in recent years has already lead to a significant loss of American marketshare. From 2000 to 2010, there were 48 trade agreements completed in the region, and the United States was party to only two of them. As a result, our share of exports in the region dropped 42 percent.

China Share of Trade








Under a Republican President, Passing TPA Gets No Easier

But what if we could pick up the pieces later? And what if China didn’t fill the vacuum of leadership in the meantime? What if we elected a Republican president and tried to get TPA again then? Good luck. Democrats are at odds with each other over TPA right now, and the few Democratic votes that exist are at the pleading of President Obama. With a Republican in the White House, congressional  Democrats would have little incentive to help deliver TPA to the new president. They would likely retreat to their corners. That’s why Chairman Ryan wrote in a recent op-ed on, “The truth is, other countries won’t wait for the U.S. to elect a new president. The world is writing the rules of the global economy right now. Either we seize this opportunity, or we will lose it.”