The U.S. House of Representatives this week agreed with the California Chamber of Commerce, voting 218-208 to renew the authority of the President and/or U.S. Trade Representative to negotiate trade agreements that help keep California competitive in the global marketplace.
The June 18 House action was a second vote on a separate Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill. The U.S. Senate must act on the proposal (the vote is expected by Wednesday, June 24) before it goes to the President, who is expected to sign it.
TPA is vital for the President of the United States to negotiate new multilateral, bilateral and sectoral agreements that will continue to tear down barriers to trade and investment, expand markets for farmers and businesses and create higher-skilled, higher-paying jobs in California and the nation.
“Competition is part of the natural flow of international commerce, with or without trade agreements,” notes Susanne T. Stirling, CalChamber vice president of international affairs. “The United States will miss opportunities and lose market share if we don’t engage in the world through trade agreements that help U.S. companies stay in the game.”
Canada, Mexico, the European Union and Chile are among the economies that are actively pursuing trade agreements to take advantage of the enhanced opportunities that result.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce points out: “Many countries slap tariffs on U.S. exports that are 10 or 20 times as high as our own, and a web of nontariff barriers overseas often shut out U.S. goods and services.”
Trade with the 20 nations currently covered by free trade agreements (FTA) with the United States accounted for 40% of California’s exports in 2014, according to the latest report of the CalChamber Economic Advisory Council.
Since 2005, the council reports, exports to these markets has grown by 50%, with the largest dollar increases in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) countries, Korea, Chile, Dominican Republic-Central America FTA countries, and Australia.
Mexico and Canada, which signed the NAFTA with the United States, rank as California’s largest and second largest export markets, respectively.
The California business community appreciates votes by members of the state congressional delegation in support of TPA.
California congressional delegation members who voted in support of TPA on June 12 held firm in their support on June 18. Among the “aye” votes were the following California representatives: Bera (D-Elk Grove), Calvert (R-Corona), Costa (D-Fresno), Davis (D-San Diego), Denham (R-Atwater), Farr (D-Carmel), Issa (R-Vista), Knight (R-Palmdale), LaMalfa (R-Richvale), McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), McClintock (R-Roseville), Nunes (R-Tulare), Peters (D-La Jolla), Royce (R-Fullerton), Valadao (R-Hanford), Walters (R-Irvine).
On June 12, the U.S. House of Representatives had narrowly approved, 219-211, the portion of the Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 that would renew TPA. A linked provision renewing Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), which was part of the U.S. Senate bill, failed to pass the House, preventing the entire package from being sent to the President to sign.
The Senate bill, TPA-15, garnered strong bipartisan support when it first passed the Senate on May 22, 62-37. Among those voting “aye” were 14 Democrats, including California U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, and most Republicans.
During the recent U.S. Conference of Mayors, 14 California mayors, led by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, sent a letter to leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives, urging passage of TPA-2015.
Every president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has been granted the authority to negotiate market-opening trade agreements in consultation with Congress.
A majority of Americans support trade; 80% believe that the President and Congress should work together to put new trade agreements in place, according to the National Association of Manufacturers.
The Business Roundtable reports that 76% of Americans favor congressional action to update and pass TPA legislation.
For more information, see www.calchamber.com/tpa.