For as large as the American economy is, a staggering 96 percent of the world’s customers reside outside of the United States.
Given this number, there are seemingly limitless opportunities to connect American goods and services with people across the globe if only we could tear down the barriers that other countries put in the way.
The economic impact on our country would result in more jobs, higher incomes, and greater security. For our trading partners, it would mean improved access to American made products, natural resources, and services that would help lead to a better quality of life for untold millions and strengthen diplomatic bonds with the world’s oldest constitutional democracy. None of this is possible without trade.
If small business and entrepreneurs are the backbone of the American economy, then trade is the life-blood that flows through it. One in five American jobs are tied to trade. Jobs connected with trade typically pay a higher wage than those that are not. In fact, three million jobs in Texas are tied to trade.
According to the Wall Street Journal, our districts rank in the top 15 in the nation in terms of congressional districts that benefit most from trade. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in 2013 our districts exported $11.5 billion (McCaul) and $32.6 billion (Weber) worth of goods and services. The vast amount of trade supports tens of thousands of jobs in our two districts alone.
This is unsurprising to us. As we travel across our districts, we are continually impressed with the innovative and hardworking Texans we encounter. From the technology sector to the oil and gas industry, our districts are full of innovators with products that appeal to consumers across the globe.
For these reasons, we joined Senator Cruz and Senator Cornyn, as well as other conservative leaders, to renew Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), a time-limited authority that Congress has historically used to set trade negotiating objectives. It is a constitutional exercise of Congress’s power to regulate commerce that prescribes direction to presidents when they negotiate international agreements on trade. This legislation sets requirements that the Obama Administration must meet in order for any trade agreement to receive a vote, such as making the text of any trade agreement publicly accessible for anyone to read.
TPA allows the Republican-led House and Senate to set the rules that President Obama must follow and restricts the President from withholding information from the public, such as the final text of trade agreements he is negotiating. If the President does not meet the nearly 150 congressionally-established objectives in the bill, the trade agreements will not even be considered for an up or down vote by Congress. In addition, TPA includes safeguards to prevent the administration from misleading the American people’s elected representatives about the negotiations by empowering Congress to conduct vigorous oversight to hold President Obama accountable.
President Ronald Reagan was a champion of free trade. He understood the importance of trade when he said, “As the leader of the West and as a country that has become great and rich because of economic freedom, America must be an unrelenting advocate of free trade.”
In addition to the benefits trade has on our economy, it is also an important foreign policy tool that helps us keep countries like China from writing the global trading rules in the 21st Century. From 2000-2010, there were 48 trade agreements made in Asia. The United States was party to only two of these. As a result, we have seen a 42 percent drop in our share of exports to the region. This is not just an economic loss for the United States, but it gives an advantage to our adversaries who seek to fill the economic void that America leaves behind.
President Reagan was right, the U.S. cannot sit idly by while other nations write the rules and reap the benefits of trade. By passing TPA, we can ensure that the U.S. has a strong hand at the negotiating table and that the Obama Administration can only get an up or down vote on trade agreements in Congress if the agreements meet all of the standards set by Congress. This means tearing down the obstacles that stand in the way of selling American products abroad. More than 38 million jobs in America depend on trade, including three million right here in Texas. It’s time we get the best deal for our families and businesses who depend on those jobs and create more in the process.
Editor’s Note: The above op-ed was first published in the Houston Chronicle. The main picture accompanying this op-ed shows Congressmen Randy Weber and Michael McCaul.