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OPINION: What the Trade Promotion Authority is and isn’t

Rep. Matt Salmon (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Rep. Matt Salmon (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

America is a land made great by free trade.

Since our inception, trade has been a means for economic prosperity and global influence.  Strong trading relationships have made partnerships stronger and provided valuable markets for high quality American goods and services.

Sadly, while the U.S. has a predominantly open market, there are many countries that have enacted trade barriers that keep American made products off their shelves.  Free trade agreements are the means to open global trade and create a level playing field for American workers and products.

There has been a lot of talk recently about the threat that Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) poses to America, and I’m here to set the record straight.

Let’s talk about what TPA is and isn’t.

TPA is not the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Trade promotion authority allows the President to negotiate an agreement with other member states while granting those states the assurance that the deal they ultimately strike will be quickly approved or denied by the U.S. Congress.  Should TPP, or any subsequent free trade agreement, strike a bad deal for Americans, Congress can (and should) vote it down.

TPA is not a way to encourage the offshoring of American jobs. Quite the contrary –free trade agreements are designed to open new markets to American goods and services, enabling domestic producers to sell their products in more places and to more people.  95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside the U.S. and our economic growth demands that we reach out to the billions of customers that live, work, and consume beyond our borders. As a way to encourage other nations to quickly negotiate and adopt those free trade agreements, TPA is an incentive to increase the size of the market for American products.

TPA is the best way America has to address our chronic trade deficit.  Many Americans know that our largest single-country trade deficit is with China.  In fact, in 2014, America bought $342.6 billion more in imports from China than we exported to them.  Yet it is important to note that China is a nation with whom we do not have a free trade agreement and with whom trade promotion authority has never been used by a president to negotiate with China. But for the 20 countries with whom we have FTAs, we have an aggregate trade surplus of $58 billion.  And each of those free trade agreements, spanning numerous administrations, was negotiated using trade promotion authority.

America needs to open markets to our goods and services.  On the global stage, we must be competitive and not be content to send our money overseas and provide a lucrative market to others who protect their industries with restrictive trade barriers.

Trade promotion authority is the avenue to achieve that end, and that’s why I support its passage.

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