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Congressman Tom Emmer

Representing the 6th District of Minnesota

Investor's Business Daily: Free Trade Deals Are More Important Than Ever For U.S. Economy

May 4, 2015
Column

By Reps. Tom Emmer and Pat Tiberi

The world as we see it in 2015 is nothing like what it was 20 or even 10 years ago. Evolving industries and geopolitical shifts in the last few decades call for a new paradigm that protects American workers and consumers while also maintaining a robust economic output.

Emerging markets in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region create abundant possibilities. But while nations like China take full advantage of these new economic opportunities, the U.S. has inexplicably fallen behind.

A diminished American presence in international markets leaves room for others to write the rules. This has the potential for striking heavy blows to our national and economic security.

While we have an overall trade surplus with our trade agreement partners, the United States now operates under a trade deficit when looking at all of our international trade.

This is not due to a lack of U.S. goods and services to sell. Rather it's due to our inability to fully tap into developing regions along with a hesitation towards getting into additional trade agreements. This mentality of the past doesn't work in the 21st century.

Negotiations for two of the largest trade agreements in history are currently underway, through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

TPP is an expansion of trade to 11 Pacific Rim nations, including Japan, and TTIP would be a monumental arrangement with 28 European Union member nations. Combined, these two agreements could give U.S. manufacturers, farmers and producers greater access to nearly 1 billion new consumers.

In order to increase our exporting capacity, the U.S. must be on a level playing field with other nations and continue to tap into emerging markets. With already extremely low tariffs, other nations have relatively easy access to our markets.

As a result, American consumers save more than $13,000 per year on goods and services. But we need to sell more abroad.

By increasing our exports with these two agreements, we will expand our base of 20 current free trade partners, which amounts to $718 billion — half of all U.S. exports. In 2012 alone, the U.S. exported $1.5 trillion worth of goods abroad.

Although we have an overall trade surplus with our trade agreement partners, it's those nations with which we don't have trade agreements where we have a nearly $500 billion annual trade deficit, resulting in fewer American jobs along with decreased wages.

But we can't break into more markets if we can't get foreign nations to tear down their trade barriers. The best and only mechanism for Congress to advocate for the American worker and our industries while also holding the president accountable is trade promotion authority, or TPA.

Recently, Congress introduced TPA legislation that empowers Congress in trade negotiations. Under the Constitution, the president negotiates trade deals. TPA is what demands accountability. It sets negotiating objectives — 150 of them — and includes stringent consultation and transparency requirements.

If Congress feels that the administration is not adequately addressing our stated objectives, then we can stop the agreement in its tracks. Furthermore, the Constitution allows Congress to have the final say before any agreement becomes law — a fact that is reaffirmed under TPA.

As TPA legislation makes its way through Congress, trade negotiators are making progress in TPP and TTIP negotiations currently underway, but there's little sunlight on these talks. TPA will provide much needed transparency to the American people and allow members of Congress the opportunity to champion the businesses and labor force in their districts.

The only truly constitutional way for the United States to achieve the most successful outcome with these agreements and gain access to these heavily sought after markets is to empower trade negotiators and strengthen congressional oversight.

Through TPA, Congress is exercising its authority to regulate foreign commerce by allowing these agreements to be held accountable by the American people.

When it comes to trade, America needs to lead. If we don't, someone else will, and it's unlikely they will act with our best interest in mind. We prefer to lead now by passing trade promotion authority this Congress.

• Tiberi, who represents Ohio's 12th district, and is on the House Ways and Means Committee and serves as chairman of the subcommittee on trade.

• Emmer represents Minnesota's 6th District and is on the House Foreign Affairs and Agriculture Committees. Both are Republicans.