For the first time in more than 15 years, more Americans say free trade helps rather than hurts our economy. That’s the takeaway from a new poll out this morning. According to the NBC News-Wall Street Journal survey, the finding “is a turning point: it marks the first time in more than 15 years that a plurality of Americans said that free trade helped. The last time Americans had more positive than negative views of trade was in December 1999.”
The reasons to support trade are clear, and the message is resonating:
- More than 95% of the world’s consumers live outside the U.S., and to grow our economy, we need to make more things here and sell them over there.
- 38 million American jobs are tied to trade, and they pay more than other jobs.
- Trade agreements allow us to write the rules of the economy, rather than nations like China.
- Trade agreements allow us to level the playing field for American workers and job creators.
Americans know that on a level playing field, our workers can compete with anyone. That’s why a shift in attitudes can be seen across sectors of the American economy. Once skeptical of free trade, the American agriculture industry is one of the biggest proponents of more trade agreements. And in an even more telling shift, the American textile industry has come around to the need to tear down trade barriers.
As a separate story in the Wall Street Journal this morning notes, one textiles company that had “been on the front lines of nearly every recent battle to defeat free-trade legislation” is now supporting efforts to increase free trade. The Journal notes that, “as business becomes more international, American industries that once pushed for protection—apparel, automobiles, semiconductors and tires—now rarely do so.”
But to get the best trade agreements possible, America needs trade promotion authority (TPA). This is the tool that empowers Congress to set our trade priorities and hold the president accountable. As Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) is quoted in POLITICO today, TPA “actually sets parameters that we want the president to work under in order to negotiate. I think that’s our responsibility.”