Call to Action: It’s Time to Pass Trade Promotion Authority

A vote for TPA is a vote for American manufacturing—and the American economy. 

When the United States ratified a free trade agreement with South Korea in 2012, Chuck Wetherington welcomed the news. Prior agreements had enabled his Hanover, Maryland–based small business, BTE Technologies, Inc., a leading provider of equipment and advanced solutions for medical testing and rehabilitation, to sell its products to Canada and Mexico.

Post-ratification, South Korea quickly became one of BTE’s top markets with a free trade agreement in place. South Korean tariff rates for the medical devices BTE sells have dropped, helping the company compete against products from other countries. As a result, sales to the country are up 134 percent in the past two years alone.

“Seeing those strong gains has been very important for our business and for our 100 employees,” says Wetherington, a member of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) Executive Committee.

Such outcomes could not have been achieved without a strong executive–congressional framework that sets forth U.S. trade-negotiating objectives, requires substantial Administration consultation and reporting to Congress on the progress of each trade negotiation and provides for congressional review and implementation of completed trade agreements under clear-cut and time-limited procedures.

That framework: Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).

A GLOBAL MARKETPLACE

BTE Technologies is not the only business whose future depends on TPA. The more than 265,000 manufacturers in the United States and their more than 12 million employees need TPA and new trade agreements to reach the 95 percent of consumers who live outside our borders.

TPA is a proven procedural partnership between Congress and the executive branch that has long enabled the United States to conclude and implement high-standard trade agreements that open new overseas markets and level the playing field for products made in America.

TAKE ACTION:

Tell Congress that the time to act on TPA is now.

“We simply can’t afford to sit this one out or cede market share to our competitors,” NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons told a packed audience in Minnesota during his recent State of Manufacturing Tour. “Every president since Franklin Roosevelt has had authority from Congress to strike trade deals that open overseas markets for manufacturers and workers in the United States.”

TPA strengthens congressional engagement in trade negotiations and gives lawmakers a seat at the table as new deals are struck. It enables Congress to set trade-negotiating objectives and hold the executive branch accountable for results.

But TPA was last approved in 2002 and expired in 2007. For BTE and many other manufacturers across the country, the case for renewing this vital legislation now could not be clearer.

COMPETITIVENESS AT STAKE

One in every five U.S. jobs depends on trade.

As the NAM outlined in a recent report, Trading Up With TPA, overseas sales are increasingly critical for manufacturers and communities of all sizes. More than 6 million U.S. manufacturing jobs depend on exports, and those jobs pay, on average, 18 percent more than other jobs. Small businesses account for nearly 97 percent of all U.S. exporters.

However, a growing array of trade barriers in other countries is limiting the export potential of American industry and costing jobs, growth and economic opportunity. While our market is already open to the world, manufacturers in the United States face steeper obstacles abroad than nearly any other major economy.

Trade agreements negotiated under TPA level the playing field by reducing and eliminating these barriers. The United States enjoys a $55 billion manufacturing trade surplus with its 20 existing trade agreement partners. Last year, those 20 countries purchased nearly half of all U.S.-manufactured goods exports even though they represent only about 6 percent of the world’s population.

At a time when global growth is slipping and other countries are rushing to conclude their own trade deals that exclude and disadvantage the United States, manufacturers need TPA and the competitive advantages new trade agreements would provide now more than ever.

That’s why the NAM is calling on Congress to act quickly on TPA. We are engaging lawmakers in Washington and in their states and districts, rallying allies across the country and sharing the importance of trade and TPA for manufacturing through op-eds, letters, social media and other platforms.

The American people recognize the value that trade and open markets deliver. Poll after poll has found that majorities of Americans of both political parties and across all demographic groups support trade agreements with additional countries to spur U.S. exports and grow manufacturing.

Exports are increasingly important for manufacturers of all sizes.

A vote for TPA is a vote for American manufacturing—and for the American economy. Companies like BTE know this already. Wetherington’s experience has made him a firm believer in the power of TPA. He knows that TPA can help secure trade agreements that bypass uncertainty and result in great market gains. “I’d really like to see us begin to streamline our ability to do new trade agreements,” he says. “TPA is that vehicle.”


This article originally appeared in the March 2015 issue of Member Focus.