Skip to content

Chairman Brady Discusses Need for Free and Fair Trade at the Peterson Institute for International Economics

September 27, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) spoke at a Peterson Institute for International Economics event on “Rethinking Trade and Reframing the Trade Debate.”

CLICK HERE or below to watch Chairman Brady’s full remarks.



“I’m convinced that, done right and properly enforced, free and fair trade allows individuals, families, communities, and countries to raise themselves out of poverty and into prosperity. Free trade lies at the heart of our nation’s post-WWII prosperity. And, in my view, the freedom to trade is perhaps our greatest economic freedom here in America. 

“As we look to the future, the importance of re-examining—or rethinking—our nation’s trade policies can’t be overstated. Just in the past couple of decades, we have seen dramatic changes to nearly every facet of global commerce. These advancements have opened opportunities for American businesses, workers, and consumers. But they have also posed significant challenges for policymakers.

“Our mission moving forward has to be to pursue trade policies that reflect the challenges and opportunities facing Americans while also promoting competition and growth.

“I’m convinced that, as we rethink trade, part of the challenge moving forward is we need—at every opportunity—to make free trade more free. Our trade agreements should be more aggressive and less protectionist. They should be bolder. 

“Selling mediocre trade agreements is hard. Selling bolder ones is more valuable.

“We ought to, at every opportunity, reject ‘early harvests’ in any trade agreement that we’re in, and push trade negotiators to dig deeper on behalf of consumers. And make sure that those trade agreements have the strongest implementation plans to ensure that they actually achieve what they are setting out to do …

“I also think, moving forward, it’s crucial—especially right now, watching this presidential campaign as it runs itself out to November—I think it’s crucial for the American people to understand that free trade is not about China, Mexico, Europe, or Asia. It’s about protecting our individual freedom to trade as Americans – to buy, sell, and compete anywhere in the world with as little government interference as possible. That’s the heart of our free enterprise system, and that’s what the freedom to trade brings us. 

“For the entrepreneur toiling deep into the night in the garage, working on their new breakthrough product, this freedom ensures they have the opportunity put that product on the market and make it available throughout the world. 

“For American consumers—for families, for that single mom—the freedom to trade protects your ability to purchase whatever products you choose and keeps prices for your goods as affordable as it needs to be for you and your family. 

“One of the reasons I love economic freedom and the freedom to trade is because it really answers a key question: Who has the power? Who has the power to decide what products you can buy and at what price? Is it Washington that has the power? Is it special interest groups? Or is it you the consumer?

“Free trade ensures that it is the consumer that ultimately has the power to decide what to buy and at what price. 

“I’m also convinced that, while we live in an anti-establishment era both here and around the world, the freedom to trade is the most anti-establishment power Americans enjoy.

“It guarantees that when a new product is designed, or a better service unveiled, or a new breakthrough technology is produced—that special interests can’t hold you back from selling it, buying it, or even disrupting an entire industry if you discovered and delivered a product or service better than what exists today. 

“I am convinced this is what Thomas Jefferson meant when he wrote: ‘Commerce with other nations is not only necessary and beneficial to all parties, it is a right and a duty.’

“The freedom to trade is a right in America, and we ought to keep that in the forefront as we work through this debate. 

“Thomas Jefferson also explained that, ‘In order to function properly, free trade must be established on a reciprocal basis.’ 

“This is another critical part that should not be left out of this debate. Free trade agreements tell our foreign competitors they cannot sell one-way into the United States unless we can sell two-way into their country and into their markets. When we do that and level the playing field, America is incredibly successful from a sales standpoint but also incredibly successful for that single mom looking for the best products at the most affordable price.    

“Reciprocity, while not language you hear in most of our debates, is sort of the golden rule on trade. If countries do not live up to their obligations, our trade agreements and WTO rules provide us with the tools to challenge them, and, if necessary, retaliate.  Enforcement – holding our trading partners accountable – is part of the commitment we make to the American people. And I’m proud to say that, this year, Congress has acted to give this administration and future administrations the strongest enforcement tools that we’ve had in modern U.S. history. 

“When we open up new markets to American-made goods through trade agreements, and strictly enforce those agreements, America wins. 

“So, today, where are we on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. I think this agreement represents a tremendous opportunity to open up more markets—more critical markets—and two-way trade. It’s a chance for the United States to write the rules of 21st century global commerce. And it provides unmistakable geostrategic benefits …

“We want our workers, our farmers, our businesses competing on a level playing field in that lucrative market.

“But, as we pursue this agreement, it has to be done right. 

“There are still several significant concerns from Member of Congress that the Administration has to address to get the necessary votes. These are not minor details either—they are key issues for American businesses, workers, and consumers. 

“As I’ve said repeatedly, the substance of the agreement will drive its timing. Ultimately, Congress controls the clock, and we control whether the agreement is approved. We will move only when the Administration addresses these concerns. Otherwise we won’t have the votes to pass it. 

“If you remember nothing else today, here is the key: We are running out of time if the White House wants to get it done this year, as I hope we do. 

“The White House has a responsibility to address these longstanding concerns quickly and make sure it is getting support from both sides of the aisle. We are certainly working in the House to facilitate the meetings, the discussions, and the ideas on how we resolve these outstanding issues so that we can be in a position to move this legislation this year. 

“As I said at the outset, we must carefully examine—and re-examine—our trade policies to make sure they are hitting the mark in the 21st century

“We have to lead on trade with this White House and the next, with the rest of the world, and more importantly, with the American people. To do this successfully, we have to reframe the debate back to the power of economic freedom. 

“We have to make clear this is about protecting our freedom to trade—our freedom to buy, sell, and compete throughout the world with as little government interference as possible.

“Given all that’s at stake, we cannot afford to disengage. We have to stand up—and stand up aggressively—for our freedom to trade.”