Manufacturers to Congress: Advance a Pro-Growth Agenda (Real Clear Markets)

Manufacturing in the United States is the envy of the world, but other nations are gunning for our spot as the most productive and innovative industry on the planet. To maintain our mantle of economic leadership, Congress must support an agenda that promotes manufacturing rather than giving into the heated rhetoric on the campaign trail that would take manufacturing in the United States in the wrong direction.

Members of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) are in Washington this week meeting with members of Congress and the administration. We are talking directly to lawmakers to caution them on the risks of pursuing an anticompetitive, antitrade agenda as well as stressing the tremendous opportunities that await if we follow a pro-growth path to raise the standard of living for everyone.

Close to 500 company leaders-from family-owned small businesses to world-recognized brands-are on Capitol Hill as part of the NAM's 2016 Manufacturing Summit. We are making one request of policymakers: Unleash our power to compete and win globally, with a focus on three key legislative issues: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a fully functioning Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank Board and comprehensive business tax reform.

The rules of international trade are being written right now, whether or not we participate. We can either choose to act on behalf of the American worker or allow other countries to claim more of the global market and more of our jobs. If the United States gives up its seat at the negotiating table, other competitors including China will tilt the playing field in their own favor, and our manufacturers will operate at a disadvantage for decades to come.

That is what is at stake with the TPP. The hard-won agreement forged over months of discussions would open markets in 11 countries and help us access nearly 500 million consumers. It would also establish basic rules and standards of fairness that reflect our own values, such as nondiscrimination and fair competition. This agreement may not be perfect, but this opportunity will not come again. We must seize it now. The administration must work closely with Congress to forge the path forward, and all who care about expanding America's opportunities and leadership must raise our voices to explain why action is required this year. We must pass the TPP.

Congressional leaders are capable of working together to promote U.S. interests abroad; the reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank last session demonstrated that fact. However, its fate today shows the ongoing peril of "politics as usual." The Ex-Im Board is unable to function because infighting has prevented the confirmation of a needed appointee. As a result, the bank lacks the quorum needed to approve many transactions, and our manufacturing companies are forced to sit on the sidelines. The Senate should put aside its differences and move forward the confirmation without further delay.

Driving growth in America also requires that Congress collaborate in easing the tax burdens holding back manufacturing. The United States has the highest corporate tax rate among developed nations, and numerous small manufacturers are paying taxes at even higher individual rates. Siphoning off funds that could be used for investment and wages is bad policy, and it is chasing companies from our shores. Broad consensus exists on the best ways to remedy our tax code. All we need is the political will to act, and we can spur tremendous economic growth.

America must remain open for business, even during a divisive election cycle. The unacceptable alternative is to keep more American families struggling.

Manufacturing is the backbone of our economy. The vast majority of manufacturing companies are small businesses, with close ties to the communities they serve. In fact, the NAM has launched a new campaign-the Power of Small-to spotlight the unique role of small manufacturers in America.

We are the economic engine of growth. In total, manufacturers employ more than 12 million men and women. Our success generates opportunity across the nation, as every $1 spent on manufacturing returns $1.40 in economic benefits. No other sector can say the same.

We are the economic engine of growth. In total, manufacturers employ more than 12 million men and women. Our success generates opportunity across the nation, as every $1 spent on manufacturing returns $1.40 in economic benefits. No other sector can say the same.

Manufacturers are making progress against the economic headwinds we face today, but we need Congress to fight even harder for the core values on which our country rests: free enterprise, competitiveness, individual liberty and equal opportunity.

We cannot wait for the results of another election to get America back in the game of winning. Congress can act on these manufacturing priorities-and we can put some more points on the board right now.

Jay Timmons is president and CEO of the NAM, and Gregg Sherrill is chairman and CEO of Tenneco Inc. and chair of the NAM Board of Directors


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