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Amid the tumult of an unpredictable presidential campaign, a consequential debate over the new Supreme Court vacancy, and a lame-duck administration determined to implement its regulatory agenda until the lights go out in the White House, it would be easy to let other priorities—like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)—fall by the wayside. Now, more than ever, we’ve got to walk and chew gum at the same time—and that means continuing to build support for this game-changing agreement and pushing for strong bipartisan approval in Congress.
The TPP, painstakingly negotiated with 11 other countries over five years, will grant U.S. workers, farmers, and businesses access to the booming Asia-Pacific—a region that boasts an expanding middle class of more than 2 billion people that will drive nearly half of global economic growth over the next five years. A recent study by the Petersen Institute estimates that the TPP will boost American exports to the region, lifting U.S. incomes by $131 billion every year starting in 2030.
How? The trade agreement will remove job-killing tariffs and other trade barriers that too often deny a level playing field for U.S. exports. The agreement includes 4,000 pages of tax cuts. It eliminates tariffs on more than 18,000 different kinds of Made in the USA products. Moreover, the deal will unleash the digital economy, strengthen our innovative and creative industries, and end the favoritism currently enjoyed by state enterprises.
No trade agreement is perfect, and the TPP is no exception. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, our members, and a number of members of Congress have identified areas, including provisions affecting the biopharmaceutical and financial services sectors, where the agreement falls short. Addressing these shortcomings is critical to our efforts to build support for the agreement in Congress.
But what we can’t do is stand still. As we speak, Asia-Pacific nations are clinching preferential trade deals among themselves that threaten to leave the United States on the outside looking in. East Asian countries have signed 145 bilateral or regional trade agreements, and some 65 more are under negotiation. Meanwhile, the United States has just 3 trade agreements in the region.
History shows that if we don’t move ahead on trade, we’ll be left behind. The TPP is already drawing interest from other Asia-Pacific economies that want to boost trade and growth. The United States can’t afford to remain on the sidelines. We’ve got to keep pushing until the job gets done—even as other challenges beg our attention.