In a victory for the California Chamber of Commerce and other longtime supporters of free trade, federal legislation renewing the authority of the President and/or U.S. Trade representative to negotiate trade agreements advanced this week.
The U.S. Senate voted 60-38 (Click here to see how representatives from California voted) on June 24 to approve the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill.
The President is expected to sign the bill shortly.
Engine for Economic Growth
“Trade is an important engine for California’s economic growth and jobs. In fact, 4.7 million jobs in California are generated from our successful trade economy,” said CalChamber President Allan Zaremberg.
“The California business community particularly appreciates votes by members of our congressional delegation in support of TPA,” said Zaremberg. “Those who supported this important measure understand that California will reap big rewards.”
California, ranked as one of the nation’s top exporting states, currently has the seventh largest economy in the world with a gross state product exceeding $2 trillion.
“Senate approval of TPA, with a vote by Senator Dianne Feinstein, will put our state one step closer to opening markets and broadening opportunities for California goods and firms so we can remain a leader in global trade,” said CalChamber Vice President of International Affairs Susanne T. Stirling. “Lowering tariffs through trade agreements is the equivalent of lowering taxes on exports that contribute to a strong national and state economy.”
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.
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 have 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.
On June 12, the U.S. House of Representatives 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.
California congressional delegation members who voted in support of TPA on June 12 held firm in their support in a second vote on June 18, helping pass TPA, 218-208 (Click here to see how representatives from California voted).
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 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.
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.
Every president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has been granted the authority to negotiate market-opening trade agreements in consultation with Congress.
For more information, see www.calchamber.com/tpa.