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Getting Things Done: Expanding American Trade

June 30, 2015

Since the start of this Congress, the House Ways and Means Committee has been advancing an agenda to move America forward. From historic Medicare reforms to pro-growth tax measures to extensive research into the barriers facing people out of work, the committee has been focused on creating a healthier American economy. And it’s been getting things done.

So, with six months behind us, we thought it would be a good time to look back at the successes the members of the committee have had thus far—starting with the issue of trade.

Yesterday, one of our major goals of the year was achieved when President Obama signed into law trade promotion authority (TPA) legislation.

Over the past six months, House Republicans—especially members of this committee, led by Trade Subcommittee Chairman Pat Tiberi (R-OH)—have worked tirelessly to build support for TPA. That’s because TPA means more American jobs, bigger paychecks, and stronger American leadership. TPA will help us get the best possible trade agreements for our workers, and it will signal to the world that the we, as a nation, are ready to lead.

With updated negotiating objectives that recognize the 21st century challenges of the ever-changing global economy, TPA will help ensure that America is only agreeing to high-standard trade deals that reflect Congress’s priorities. And it ensures the American people will be able to see what a trade agreement will mean for them, with deals posted online for 60 days before being sent to Congress. No secrets, no hidden agendas, and no executive overreach; TPA means accountability, transparency, and effective oversight.

As Chairman Ryan said of TPA’s enactment, “This is a big win.”

But TPA isn’t the only victory members of Ways and Means have gotten across the finish line. Also signed by the president yesterday was a bill extending trade preferences programs and trade adjustment assistance. By fostering trade between us, this preferences package—which includes the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, the Haitian HOPE Act, and the generalized system of preferences program—will help strengthen America’s economic ties in developing nations. And it will serve as a powerful tool to help those countries choose free enterprise and markets over cronyism and corruption.

And not to be forgotten, the House and Senate have also both passed legislation—the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act—that would reform and update our customs and trade enforcement laws. We expect this legislation also will go to the president’s desk for signing soon. When it does, the United States will have the tools and resources it needs to ensure our trading partners are playing by the rules and America’s interests are protected.

Yes, there’s still work to be done—our focus now shifts to ensuring the administration negotiates strong trade agreements in places like the Asia-Pacific region and Europe. But today, as we reflect on our first six months of a new Congress, we must say—we’re off to a pretty good start.

And that holds true on the issue of health care, which we’ll look at next.