Mar 16, 2015 - 11:00am

The Open Door of Trade: The Imperative of Trade Promotion Authority

Senior Vice President for International Policy

Eleventh and final installment in a series

Previously: The Trade in Services Agreement

What are the benefits of America’s free trade agreement (FTAs)? With debate over the renewal of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) now underway in Washington, the Chamber is publishing this series of blog posts examining the benefits of the trade agreements that TPA makes possible. Here is the full report on the benefits of America’s free trade agreements.

As this series explains, new trade agreements have great potential as a tool to stimulate growth and job creation. However, to make these or any other growth-driving FTAs a reality, Congress must first approve Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).

With the exception of the U.S.-Jordan FTA, the United States has never entered into a free trade agreement or multilateral trade agreement without it. A simple form of TPA was first enacted in 1934, but the latest iteration lapsed in 2007.

TPA is premised on the notion that the executive and legislative branches of the federal government should work together on trade. The Constitution gives Congress authority to regulate international commerce, but it gives the president authority to negotiate with foreign governments.

TPA directs Congress to set negotiating objectives for trade agreements and requires the executive branch to engage in close consultations with legislators throughout the course of negotiations. In turn, when an agreement is reached, Congress must approve or reject but may not amend it.

While foreign governments may initiate negotiations with the United States without TPA in place, they have historically proven leery of making the difficult political choices associated with the final stages of negotiations in its absence. In this sense, TPA strengthens the hand of U.S. negotiators, helping them secure the best possible deal for U.S. workers, farmers and companies.

As noted above, 398 FTAs are in force around the globe today, but the United States has FTAs in place with just 20 countries. There are more than 100 FTAs currently under negotiation among our trading partners.

The United States cannot afford to stand aside as foreign governments rewrite the rules of international trade and American companies are placed at a competitive disadvantage in market after market. If we do, American workers, farmers and companies will pay the price.

The record of success of America’s FTAs is impressive. American workers, farmers and companies may not always recognize these benefits, though they are often hidden in plain sight. FTAs have generated new opportunities for commerce, boosted economic growth, raised productivity and improved conditions for the creation of good jobs. To secure more of these benefits for generations of Americans to come, we need more of these agreements.

To secure more market-opening FTAs, renewal of TPA is essential. To oppose TPA is to guarantee that foreign markets remain closed to U.S. exports. To reject TPA is to accept a playing field skewed against American workers and companies. Without it, our standard of living and our standing in the world will suffer. The time has come to renew TPA and seize the benefits of a robust international trade agenda.

Support American Jobs and Economic Growth, Support Trade Promotion Authority: 

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About the Author

About the Author

Senior Vice President for International Policy

Murphy directs the U.S. Chamber’s advocacy relating to international trade and investment policy.