Apr 02, 2014 - 11:00am

U.S. Trade Agenda: Down a Dozen Points from the Tip Off?

Executive Vice President and Head of International Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

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Photo: Patrick T. Fallon for Bloomberg

There’s no doubt that trade brings huge benefits to the United States. More than 38 million American jobs depend on trade. But there’s more than a grain of truth in the observation that the international playing field is often tilted against American workers.

The U.S. market is largely open to imports from around the world, with such notable exceptions as apparel, footwear, and sugar. However,  other countries continue to levy tariffs on U.S. exports that sometimes soar into the double digits, and foreign governments have erected other kinds of barriers against U.S. goods and services.

No one wants to go into a basketball game down by a dozen points from the tip-off — but that’s exactly what American exporters do every day. These barriers are particularly burdensome for America’s small- and medium-sized companies, approximately 300,000 of which are exporters.

The good news is that America’s trade agreements do a great job creating a level playing field. As a result, America’s 20 trade agreement partners buy nearly half of our exports even though they represent just 10 percent of the global economy. Their citizens purchase 12 times more U.S. exports per capita than those of other countries. By tearing down foreign barriers to U.S. products, these agreements have a proven ability to make big markets even out of small economies.

To create the jobs, growth, and prosperity our children need, we need to set the agenda. Otherwise, our workers and businesses will miss out on huge opportunities.

The Chamber has just such a pro-jobs trade agenda, which we’ve submitted to Congress today in advance of U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman’s appearance before the House Ways & Means Committee on April 3. It’s simple:

We need to renew Trade Promotion Authority to ensure effective executive-legislative collaboration in the negotiation of new trade pacts. Then, Congress and the Administration should use this legislation to pursue new trade agreements to ensure that international commerce is fair.

The trans-Pacific, trans-Atlantic, services, and information technology trade agreements now being negotiated represent a once in a lifetime opportunity to tear down the walls that have shut American goods and services out of foreign markets for so long. We need to seize these opportunities.

Further, Congress needs to renew the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB), and the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

And with all our trade agreements — old and new — we need to ensure they are fully enforced. The trade agreements we enter into are not worth the paper they are written on if they are not fully enforced.

The United States is home to many of the best workers and companies in the world. We create many of the world’s most innovative products. We also face tougher competition than ever before. But our productivity is high, and our energy costs are going down. The facts show we can compete and win.

About the Author

About the Author

Executive Vice President and Head of International Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Myron Brilliant, executive vice president and head of International Affairs the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, drives the global business strategy of the organization.