Exports currently support about 11.7 million American jobs -- a number that will only increase, considering 95 percent of the world’s consumers live beyond our borders. If we want to make products in America, we have to sell those American made products to partners around the world. And we need agreements on trade, to give our businesses a chance to compete.
As Secretary Kerry said in a major address on trade in Seattle today, “In the modern world, we just can’t expect our economies to grow if all we do is buy and sell to ourselves. It’s simply not going to happen. Trade supports jobs and builds prosperity -- period.”
That’s why the bipartisan Trade Priorities and Accountability Act is critical. It will help us negotiate trade agreements that are good for our economy, our businesses, and most importantly for our workers. It will give President Obama the authority to conclude and put before Congress two of the most significant trade agreements in our history -- the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP.
TPP -- which will encompass 40 percent of the world’s economy -- will enable us to play a critical role in helping to determine the highest standard rules for trade. Rather than lowering our standards to compete with the rest of the world, we should help bring the rest of the world up to meet the high standards by which American businesses now operate.
This historic trade agreement is unlike any other negotiated: every participant has to comply with core international labor and environmental standards; to refrain from using under-age workers and unsafe workplaces; to ensure that nationally owned companies compete fairly with ones that are privately owned; to fight trade-related bribery and corruption, support legitimate digital trade, safeguard intellectual property, and guarantee that the promises they make are promises they will keep.
Some critics question whether TPP will be good for our country. But the benefits exceedingly outweigh the negatives. This agreement would help us write the rules for trade in a way that avoids the mistakes from our past, seizes opportunities for our future, and stays true to our values. It would level the playing field, give our workers a fair shot, and for the first time, include strong fully enforceable protections for workers’ rights, the environment, and a free and open internet.
The TPP will lower tariffs on American exports. It will ensure that TPP countries treat American products the same way they treat products from their own firms. It will cut red tape and reduce bureaucracy for our small businesses and family farms. And it will help our companies participate more fully in the new global supply chains that are creating unprecedented opportunities around the world.
TPP will also help to knit America and our partners together so that we are better able to cooperate in other areas. By creating a community of common interests on trade, we’ll be better positioned to expand our cooperation in other areas. That matters because the Asia Pacific is home to four most populous countries, the three largest economies, and a huge and rapidly-growing middle class.
As Secretary Kerry said, "Completing the TPP would send a message throughout the region as well as the world that America is -- and will continue to be -- a leading force for prosperity and security in the Asia Pacific. That is good for the United States; it’s good for our trading partners; and it is definitely good for companies and workers here in the American Northwest."
Changes to the global economic system will happen with us or without us; we should be investing in our people so we are ready to take advantage of the change rather than resist it. Our failure to clinch free trade agreements in the Asia Pacific won’t preclude them from happening; it just means that we won’t be part of them. We have to continue taking critical steps that will make us more competitive and spread the benefits of globalization far and wide.
We are living in an economic environment that has transformed over the past 50 years, but the need for American leadership has not changed. We must seize this opportunity to shape and to elevate the global rules of trade for decades to come.
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