By Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson
During the coming months, Congress will be asked to consider the most comprehensive and ambitious trade deal of our time. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is one of the cornerstones of President Barack Obama’s trade agenda. It seeks to improve the U.S. economy and those of eleven other countries.
Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam are dependent upon the comprehensive and high-standard free trade agreement.
Some of these countries lack minimum labor, environmental, and humanitarian standards, all of which President Obama and his chief negotiators strive to address and enforce in the TPP deal.
Before TPP or the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) can be considered by Congress, a trade promotion authority (TPA) bill must be passed.
TPA bills outline Congressional guidance to the administration on trade policy and establish requirements for trade agreements. Many refer to TPA as “fast track” because trade agreements would be sent to Congress for an up-or-down vote with no amendments allowed.
Essentially, this gives the administration the power to negotiate trade deals without Congressional input. Prior TPA bills have established the fast-track measure; however, a TPA bill currently under consideration includes language that enables Congress to reject the fast-track process if 60 Senators decide that the president ignored negotiating objectives mandated by Congress.
Arguments against fast-track certainly have had some validity.
However, lawmakers in Congress have shown commitment to a TPA bill that includes a strong measure of Congressional oversight.
A free-trade agreement would only help our economy. In 2014, more than 1.1 million American jobs were directly supported by manufactured goods and exports.
In fact, Texas leads the nation in exports and jobs directly linked to them. In 2014, Texas exported $289 billion in goods, and led the nation in manufacturing exports by a large margin.
In 2013, the metropolitan area of Dallas-Ft. Worth-Arlington exported $27.6 billion in goods to the rest of the world. In past trade agreements, Texas’ main exports were from the oil and gas industry.
The economic expansion of Texas has made our state successful with agricultural exports, such as beef, veal and plant products, while manufacturing exports now include electronics, chemicals, and machinery and transportation equipment.
The Dallas economy depends on free and fair trade. With four out of five of Dallas’ top export markets covered by TPP (Canada, Mexico, Singapore) and T-TIP (Netherlands), the North Texas export market is integral to any strategy that aims to grow the economies of Dallas and Texas.
These free trade agreements will undoubtedly help the U.S., and enhance a global commitment by our partner nations to improved labor, environmental, and humanitarian standards.
As we negotiate two of the largest trade deals in our history, we must consider the positive impact that international trade has on our state economy, as well as on our national economy and the global economy.