This week, Congress has a historic opportunity to unite behind an issue that will create jobs, raise wages and solidify the U.S. as the leader in the 21st century economy. On Friday, the House is expected to vote on a bill known as trade promotion authority, or TPA. This legislation would empower Congress to dictate the terms of free trade agreements and ensure the U.S. secures the best trade deal possible for American workers, manufacturers, farmers and ranchers. This issue shares broad bipartisan support ranging from Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Congressman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and President Obama. Its passage is vital to ensuring American global leadership and creating opportunities for good-paying, high-quality jobs for the American people.
Free trade agreements allow us to remove trade barriers and open U.S. products to overseas markets. Past agreements show American companies are the most innovative and dynamic in the world – if provided an equal opportunity, they can compete and win. In fact, if you combine all 20 countries that have a trade agreement with the U.S., American manufacturers enjoy a $50 billion trade surplus. Conversely, if you combine all the countries the U.S. does not have a free trade agreement with, American manufacturers run a $500 billion deficit.
Currently, the U.S. is negotiating numerous free trade agreements, the most notable being the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. A vote on either of these trade agreements is not likely to occur this year; however, in order to ensure that America gets the best possible deal on these FTAs, Congress must enact TPA.
TPA puts in place protections that would ensure transparency and hold the administration accountable to Congress and the American people. First, it provides 150 detailed objectives that the administration must adhere to when negotiating all trade agreements. Second, it requires the administration to keep Congress informed on the state of negotiations, including allowing any member the right to participate in negotiating rounds. Third, it gives Congress the ultimate power to disapprove any trade agreements that fail to meet the required negotiating objectives. Finally, TPA requires the administration to make public any trade agreement 60 days before it can become law. This will give the American people the opportunity to read any trade agreement, like TPP, for themselves, and fully understand its economic benefits.
Right now, millions of U.S. jobs are dependent on trade. Nationwide, trade supports 38 million jobs. Trade is also vital in our homestate; in fact, 4.7 million jobs rely on trade in California. Furthermore, according to a U.S. International Trade Commission study, manufacturing jobs that rely on trade pay, on average, 16 percent more.
Most importantly, if Congress fails to pass TPA and set the trade rules of the global economy, China will. We simply cannot cede our role as the global leader in the 21st century. I urge my colleagues in the House and the American people to rally behind trade promotion authority as it comes up for a vote.
Republican Congresswoman Mimi Walters represents California's 45th congressional district.