The world’s economy is now more interconnected than ever before, with 96% of customers located outside of the United States. If we are going to stay competitive on the world stage and grow our economy, then we must look for new ways to engage in trade.
That’s why the United States is currently in negotiations with a number of Pacific Rim and South American countries located on the Pacific regarding a new free trade agreement. Similar talks are ongoing with our allies in Europe.
To simplify the process, Congress is using a tool called Trade Promotion Authority, or TPA. This process has been used for decades. TPA is not a trade deal itself, but instead, a way for Congress to set the negotiating guidelines which the President must adhere to in any final agreement. To date, no trade deal has been completed without a TPA procedure in place.
I have heard from constituents and groups right here in Alabama and all across the country who believe Congress should pass TPA. Groups like the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce, the Alabama State Port Authority, the Alabama Farmers Federation, the steel industry, and Manufacture Alabama have all asked me to support TPA.
Liberal labor unions claim that free trade doesn’t benefit American workers, but that is simply not true. Over 558,384 jobs in Alabama alone are directly supported by trade. Nationwide more than one in five jobs – over 38 million – are related to trade. Specific to Southwest Alabama, the Port of Mobile is among the top United States ports serving manufacturing, mining, and agribusiness exports.
I’ve also heard from our nation’s military and foreign policy leaders who believe passing TPA is important for our national security. If the United States doesn’t engage in trade with our allies in the Pacific and Europe, nations like China and Russia will fill the void and expand their influence in the region. We simply cannot allow that to happen.
That’s why 17 former Secretaries of Defense and senior military officials, as well as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, have called on Congress to move forward with new free trade agreements, which are a key foreign policy tool.
Most importantly, many conservative organizations and leaders like Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan, and Macro Rubio, have urged passage of TPA in order to restrict President Barack Obama’s authority and hold the President accountable. In fact, Senator Cruz wrote that “trade promotion authority will hold the administration accountable both to Congress and to the American people.”
Every President already has the Constitutional authority to negotiate trade deals with foreign nations, but TPA would allow Congress to set guidelines, restrictions, and requirements for the negotiations. TPA puts Congress, not President Obama, in the driver’s seat when it comes to trade agreements.
TPA also makes some significant transparency requirements that will force the President to keep the American people informed about the negotiations. Under TPA, any potential trade agreement will have to be made publicly available for 60 days before Congress can vote on it.
Most importantly, TPA ensures that Congress has the final say in approving any trade agreements. If a deal doesn’t meet the high standard that is required, then Congress would simply reject it.
I came to Washington to focus on solutions that grow the economy, advance a strong national defense, and fight back against an out of control executive. Passing TPA fulfills each of those goals, and that’s why it earned my support.
If you still have questions about TPA or any other issue related to trade, I invite you to visit my website at Byrne.House.Gov where I have posted some more information about this important legislation.
Bradley Byrne is a member of the U.S. Congress representing Alabama’s 1st Congressional District.