Atlanta Journal-Constitution Publishes our Op-Ed on Trade Authority

This op-ed appeared in May 7, 2014 edition of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Free trade agreements benefit Ga. job creators

By Benita Dodd 

Georgia businesses have just broken their own record. Thanks largely to booming sales of aircraft components, companies exported $37.6 billion worth of goods last year, up by well over a billion dollars from the previous high the year before.

The export sector has been a source of excellent news for a state still recovering from the Great Recession and struggling with joblessness. But the state’s global commercial reach could be even greater. Many countries still erect barriers to keep some American products from competing on a level playing field.

The solution: Negotiate tough trade agreements with countries blocking U.S. goods and services. To do that, however, requires congressional authority for the president’s negotiators to cut deals that open markets.

From the 1930s through the first decade of this century, every American president has enjoyed Trade Promotion Authority. TPA outlines the goals the Congress wants the president to pursue in negotiations. It requires the president to consult with Congress as negotiations unfold. It sets procedures for Congress to vote up or down on an agreement without amendment.

The authority doesn’t let the president impose his will unilaterally. Congress sets the framework for an agreement, shapes it as it’s being made, and retains the right to reject the final product. The authority assures our negotiators and their foreign counterparts that Congress will vote on the agreement as negotiated and won’t try to rewrite it through amendments.

Trade Promotion Authority expired in 2007. Congress has not renewed it. It is time to do so. It is no exaggeration to say that the future prosperity of our country – and our state – is on the line.

Free-trade agreements have benefited Georgia job creators. The state’s exports to Canada and Mexico rose 363 percent after the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect. Our exports to Singapore soared 438 percent since the 2004 U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement. When the United States signed an agreement with Australia, motor-vehicle exports skyrocketed from $4 million to $209 million. Trade supports 1.2 million jobs in Georgia.

Yet many countries still erect barriers to our products. Georgia companies face tariffs of up to 50 percent when they export golf carts to Malaysia, up to 30 percent on nuts and frozen chicken cutlets in Vietnam, and 10 percent when they send carpets to New Zealand.

Some have voiced concerns that more foreign competition will put Americans out of work. This perspective, however, misunderstands the nature of trade flows. More than three-fifths of U.S. imports aren’t actually completed products. They are inputs, or raw materials, that American companies need to run their businesses.

Savings from imports have a tremendous effect on consumers, too. Trade and investment liberalization policies save the average family of four more than $10,000 a year by helping lower prices for everything from TVs to computers to toys, according to the Business Roundtable.

Free and fair trade agreements are a good deal for Americans and Georgians.

Benita Dodd is vice president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.


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