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Congressman Tom Emmer

Representing the 6th District of Minnesota

Roll Call: Republican Freshmen Call on Congress, President to Lead on Trade

March 23, 2015
Column

By Reps. Barbara Comstock and Tom Emmer

At the heart of any free and prosperous nation is an equally free and prosperous economy.

The United States is proud to have strong trade relationships with nations around the globe. Each year, the U.S. ships roughly $1.5 trillion worth of goods abroad.

Despite demand for U.S. goods overseas, coupled with a robust industry and network of trade partners, there are still unnecessary foreign barriers to U.S. exports that hinder American businesses and producers from fully thriving in a global market.

There is great potential to overcome these barriers with free trade agreements, particularly through the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, both of which are currently being negotiated.

Current free trade agreements have saved the average American family of four more than $10,000 per year and U.S. manufacturers have a more than $50 billion surplus with trade agreement countries.

Furthermore, international trade supports more than 38 million jobs, and the share of U.S. jobs tied to trade has more than doubled in the past 20 years. Trade-related jobs pay well, up to 15 percent to 20 percent more than non-trade counterparts. A whopping 96 percent of the world’s consumers live outside the U.S., so it is vital to open these markets to further a healthy U.S. economy and create more jobs.

The TPP is a proposed free trade agreement between 12 nations, including Canada, Japan and Australia, who together account for 40 percent of the world’s gross domestic product. The TPP offers the opportunity to strengthen ties with traditional trade partners and expand into emerging markets in one of the most economically dynamic regions.

The TTIP is a free trade agreement being negotiated between the U.S. and the 28 European Union member countries, aimed at reducing tariffs and standardizing regulations between two of the world’s largest economies. A successful TTIP agreement would also create a 21st century template for global trading rules, so we can raise standards in China and India.

With an estimated annual real income benefit of nearly $80 billion, these agreements would increase U.S. exports by more than $100 billion annually. A recent trade agreement with Korea alone has increased exports on mechanical appliances by 129 percent.

The ongoing negotiations are an opportunity to include strong and enforceable provisions that would eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers for U.S. exports of goods, services and agricultural products, as well as ensure the U.S. remains competitive and on an equal playing field.

The Constitution vests Congress with sole authority over regulation of commerce with foreign nations and it is the executive branch’s duty to faithfully carry out the laws we pass. Therefore it is important that Congress and the president work together to ensure our trade agreements create new opportunities for the millions of Americans who do business overseas every day.

The best mechanism we have to accomplish this goal and build on the successes of past trade agreements is Trade Promotion Authority.

TPA is not a new proposal. Every president since Franklin D. Roosevelt has had TPA, and it has been used for 14 bilateral/regional free trade agreements as well as multilateral trade liberalization agreements.

It establishes negotiating objectives and provides U.S. trade negotiators with authority to negotiate deals that best serve the American people. Most importantly, the TPA retains congressional authority and oversight over the approval of free trade agreements by requiring a final vote on the agreement.

With this authority, U.S. trade negotiators will have increased leverage in achieving the best possible outcome for our nation by providing certainty to our businesses, workers and our trading partners.

The TPA additionally plays a strategic role within our nation’s foreign policy. Empowering expanding economies and strengthening long-standing relations with trade partners solidifies U.S. influence, enabling free enterprise to flourish around the globe.

At a time when common ground is often difficult to find, trade reform — and the job creation it brings — is a bipartisan, common-sense issue we can all get behind. We look forward to working together with our constituents, businesses and colleagues to pass a successful TPA bill in early 2015.

Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., is on the House Transportation and Infrastructure; Science, Space and Technology and House Administration committees. Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., is on the House Foreign Affairs and Agriculture committees. Emmer is also a lead freshman signatory on a letter to the president supporting TPA.