WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) today delivered the following remarks at a launch event for Trade For America. Brady joined leaders in the agriculture, manufacturing, and business communities to speak about the importance of trade and how it improves the lives of the American people.
Below are Chairman Brady’s remarks as delivered. Click here to watch the video.
“Justin, thanks for the introduction and for your great work at the Texas Business Leadership Council.
“I’m really excited to be here for launch of Trade For America.
“Bill, you and I have worked together on I think 12 free trade agreements, 12 of the 14 in place today. It’s great to have you continue to be committed to the fight.
“And I see a lot of real leaders on trade from Texas here. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Jeff Moseley for many years – and you’re in a great place now at TAB.
“My constituent – she was helping me on tax reform and trade as well – Kelley Sullivan, who’s just done great work.
“Cindy came up and helped us with MTB successfully – thank you for that.
“Matt Rose obviously, your business leadership at The Fed and throughout the country – it’s been so critical for us so thank you for that as well.
“And, before we get started, I’d really be remiss if I didn’t say how grateful I am to the Business Roundtable, the American Farm Bureau, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the National Association of Manufacturers.
“In every critical issue facing our economy – from tax reform, to trade, to energy, and balancing regulation – your leadership and support has just been crucial. We could not have done it without you. So, first and foremost, thank you for all your leadership.
“You’re exactly who we need leading the effort on trade in America.
“You can tell there is a different optimism about the economy today. You can see it and you can feel it.
“We’re starting off 2018 with real economic momentum like we just haven’t seen in years.
“President Trump has now – as you know – signed into law the most sweeping overhaul of our tax code in more than three decades.
“The benefits of the law are already materializing in real positive ways, now with over 200 companies – including many represented here today – who have announced bonuses, raises, expanded benefits, and increased retirement plans for their workers.
“Yesterday we did about six town hall meetings. A little mom-and-pop restaurant in Madison on the courthouse square told me they’re adding another worker.
“I was just over in Fort Worth and there is an independent auto dealer – a used auto dealer. They’re adding two more workers.
“And on the ride over here, hoping to be on time, I talked to a rental business in Houston that’s going to be able to buy $2 million more in equipment to be able to lease out – American-made products – as a result of the tax code.
“You can’t convince me that all those multiplied more workers and better benefits won’t grow the economy in a serious way.
“And consumer confidence and job-seeker confidence is at almost record levels.
“And, best of all, the Houston Astros are still the World Series champions [laughter]. Sorry about that. I know I’m in Dallas, but you got to give it up to us just one time here.
“So I think we can all be excited about the new life that’s come to our economy and growth in our economy – and the opportunity to build on it. But, to maximize our economic potential, we need more customers and our workers need more markets. That’s what trade is all about.
“That’s the pro-growth agenda for the future for America.
“So, it’s a new year, so it’s a perfect time I think to take stock of where we are on trade – to evaluate our strengths and weaknesses, and also look at our challenges and opportunities.
“And it’s important that we do this not only as we look at our trade policy, but to evaluate how we are communicating the benefits of trade in our communities and how we are listening to all Americans.
“Those of us who have worked together so long on trade have always recognized, at times, the disconnect between the benefits of trade and the workers and the families that benefit from it.
“And, on all fronts, I think we’ve all agreed that we have to focus on one thing – people.
“Tom Donohue, in his recent State of American Business address, said this:
“‘First and foremost, our economy is about people.’
“The same is absolutely true for trade. Yet, too often, that story doesn’t get told – and it is a great story. Think about it.
“Trade, and the pursuit of it, is what first drove people to build ships, cross vast uncharted oceans, and discover new continents.
“It led us to build roads and bridges, towns, cities, and entire civilizations.
“It fueled the Industrial Revolution, the American Revolution, and countless life-saving changes in science, technology, farming, manufacturing, and medicine.
“Trade provides people, families, communities, and even whole countries with a means to lift themselves out of poverty and into prosperity.
“It has the power to improve lives of people in immeasurable ways.
“And for me, what’s drawn me into trade, is to me the freedom to trade is the greatest economic freedom we have. We all usually take it for granted, but think about it.
“It is the freedom to buy and sell and compete anywhere in the world with as little government interference as possible. It’s the freedom, if you build a better mousetrap, to sell it throughout the world. And, if someone else builds a better mousetrap, the freedom to buy it for our family or for our business.
“And it always answers this key question in the right way: Who has the power? Who has the power to decide what you can buy and at what price? Is it government? Is it special interests? Or is it you, the consumer?
“The freedom to trade always says that power lies with you, the consumers.
“And I think, without a doubt, America’s network of very hard-fought, enforceable trade agreements that many of us have worked on for many years – including NAFTA – is contributing, no doubt, to the economic momentum that’s building in our economy right now. It is creating jobs and stimulating investment in communities across the country.
“Yet, we have to ask the obvious question:
“With all the meaningful benefits that come from free trade and open markets, why is public support for trade itself not higher? So where is that disconnect? And I don’t think it is with the American people.
“Trade is in our DNA as Americans. I mean, it’s part of everything we do. We’re incredibly good at it. And, for most of us, we do it our entire life.
“Probably starting with me at the lunch table in elementary school, trading the things my mom gave me for the goodies the other people had. And we’ve probably all played that role.
“But throughout our lives – and throughout really human history – trade has always brought us together as people, it hasn’t pulled us apart.
“To bridge the divide, I think we have to take action in two key areas.
“One, we have to demonstrate clearly that trade not only supports the American people, but the American people support trade. This is essential I think to our nation’s success. We can’t have one without the other.
“It’s not enough to simply highlight statistics about the importance of global value chains – we also have to emphasize the value provided by our workers and local job creators.
“We have to lay out the value of trade to that single mom, who is walking through the grocery store looking for a variety of choices at the most affordable price to make sure that budget is stretching as far as it can. The freedom to trade is what gives that mom the choices – her choices – for what’s right and affordable for the family. Not the government’s choices, or even special interests.
“We can’t just focus on the billions of dollars of exports that America sells around the world – we have to publicly recognize the billions of hours that Americans put in to manufacture these ‘Made in America’ products, to grow and harvest these crops, to develop and deliver better services.
“We all know, in this changing world, it’s not enough to buy American – we have to sell American throughout the globe. And that’s what puts the value of our workers and, I think, creates the real benefits.
“And I think, above all, when we discuss how supporting free trade and open markets – new markets for America – it is essential to helping our local businesses compete and win. And we have to reinforce how those wins create jobs. How – like tax reform – they grow paychecks. And how they improve the quality of life throughout our communities.
“Second thought is that our trade policies – and our trade agenda more broadly – we have to continue to put America and the American people in the driver’s seat. Good policy, where we’re driving it, creates awfully positive – and I think – awfully good results.
“Both within Congress as well as within the Trump Administration, I think there is a real desire to move forward on a smart, pro-growth trade agenda that strengthens our existing trade agreements – makes them better – bolsters American leadership around the world, and delivers great benefits for our workers, our businesses, and our families.
“In fact, just this past month the House voted unanimously – which doesn’t happen often – to pass Miscellaneous Tariff Bill legislation for the first time in more than seven years.
“Many of you – Cindy, Kelley, others – helped us here.
“This is bipartisan, bicameral legislation, which I authored on behalf of Ways and Means Republicans and Democrats. This will temporarily reduce tariffs on nearly 1,700 different products that simply aren’t available right now in America, and delivers cost savings and competition for our American manufacturers.
“For example, American companies like Glen Raven will see relief as they import the specific fibers they need to manufacture their Sunbrella brand – a big help to their business, to their workers, and makes them more competitive.
“And I think the bill’s unanimous passage in the House is proof that – when done right and explained right – the support we have for taking action on trade that helps us compete here and around the world.
“Over the past year, as we have focused on tax reform, the Ways and Means Committee has also helped lead the way in consulting with President Trump and his team as they work to review and update our trade agreements, and make sure that these deliver for Americans.
“My thought is, look, we have a network today of strong, enforceable trade agreements – and our participation in the World Trade Organization – that is working for America. It is turning one-way trade into two-way trade. It’s leveling the playing field. And it’s allowing us to hold our trading partners accountable when they don’t play by the rules we agreed to. All of which, I think, is the reason we’ve led the world as a country – why America has led the world for the better part of the last 100 years.
“But we can’t rest, as we know. We have to constantly evaluate what we’re doing that’s working, where it’s not working, and, frankly, where we need to improve it.
“So I welcome President Trump’s efforts to examine our trade agreements to make sure they have the highest standards to benefit our businesses and our workers. Like President Trump, our Committee, Ways and Means, is dedicated to putting the American people in the driver’s seat on trade.
“We all agree modernizing NAFTA represents a big opportunity for us to grow the economy and grow paychecks going forward.
“That agreement has been incredibly beneficial to Texas, for my communities in our district, and for America as a whole.
“The agreement has created and supported millions – and continues to – millions of good-paying American jobs.
“It has made products more affordable our families.
“It has increased the competitiveness of businesses in agriculture, in services, in manufacturing.
“All that said, NAFTA’s old. As I get older I shouldn’t say that. But look, it was negotiated over a quarter of century ago. A lot has changed in the world and in the economy – a lot of it for the better.
“So, today, I think we’ve got a real opportunity to build on its many benefits by modernizing and bringing it into the 21st century.
“Like tax reform, this won’t be an easy task – it never is. These are big agreements, and they’re complicated. It requires hours of careful work and negotiations, significant coordination between Congress and the White House, and a steadfast dedication to delivering real results for the people that count – the American people.
“And, just as important, it has to be done without disrupting ongoing trade and all the American jobs that are now supported by NAFTA.
“So, in the end, to continue to thrive in this relationship, we have to create certainty. We have to create confidence through this agreement – through an ambitious, and pragmatic, and balanced agreement that really looks to the long term.
“I know from all our experience in trade agreements, it’s tempting to go for the short-term benefits. But free trade is really about unlocking markets, creating competition, leveling the playing field over time. That’s where we’ve always gained the greatest economic benefit.
“And in most trade agreements, you always have a choice between good policy and time. In NAFTA, in every agreement, choose the right policy that opens the market for the right reasons. Don’t worry about the urgency of it – get the policy right.
“Time always occurs, policy doesn’t.
“So, in NAFTA and other agreements – whether it’s in the Asia-Pacific where we need to engage, or others – pick the right policy and hold our partners accountable. And I think this is what is really important as we look at NAFTA and the current negotiations.
“You can negotiate the best agreement in the world. If it can’t be held accountable – if you can’t make sure it’s complied with – it doesn’t have the value it needs.
“And so we have to make sure this agreement – NAFTA – has powerful, enforceable rules to hold our trading partners accountable if they fail to uphold their obligations, including strong provisions on overall dispute settlement and investor-state dispute settlement. Good, solid, pragmatic ways to resolve the disputes we know inevitably occur – they do in business contracts, they do in trade agreements as well.
“I’m confident we are up to the challenge. And already, I think, looking at this agreement we’re already seeing progress in key areas such as digital commerce, energy, agriculture, and state-owned enterprises – the priorities for our ag, manufacturing, and services providers.
“This week, obviously there is another round occurring in Montreal. We have a trade delegation from the Ways and Means Committee, led by our Trade Chairman David Reichert, up there and going up there as we speak.
“Our negotiators and our message will be: keep up with the momentum, keep up with the fight for the American people, keep up the work for a strong agreement with enforceable rules.
“At the end of the day, looking bigger and broader, rather than retreating to the sidelines – or worse, pulling out of key agreements like this – let’s show the American people we’re serious about delivering a good deal for them.
“Let’s stand up for the workers and our job creators to make sure they have the greatest possible opportunity to compete and win.
“Finally, and most important, let’s make sure that America continues to lead – that we set the standards of trade for the benefit of our people.
“No matter if we’re talking about NAFTA or any of our other agreements, when our nation leads on trade – when we write the rules of global commerce with a steadfast commitment to fairness, to open markets, to strict trade enforcement – the American people win.
“When we lead on trade, the American people – our workers and our families – always win.
“At the end of the day, America is made for trade. So is Texas. So let’s move forward.
“This is our nation’s trade story. We ought to tell it – and we ought to tell it proudly.
“We can’t do this alone. That’s why we need the help and the leadership you’re providing to show why trade is so important to you personally. Why it’s important to help your businesses, your workers, your friends, your families, and our communities.
“Trade is about people – it’s about the American people.
“And with your partnership – your leadership – and a pro-growth, pro-trade agenda for the future, I’m confident we can seize on the momentum we’re seeing in the economy to make an even bigger difference for people’s lives in this country.
“Thank you very much for having me. And, again, I think this coalition – this initiative – is exactly the right effort, exactly the right moment in America’s history, and I want to partner with you as you do it.