To many, giving President Obama more authority is a bad idea. However, regardless of how you feel about him, the President of the United States needs the power to negotiate trade agreements.
The issue before Congress is a bipartisan bill granting the President’s trade negotiators the power to help write the terms of trade agreements. Senators Orin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) brokered the deal, which hopefully make its way through Congress.
Washington state exports hit a record $90.6 billion in 2014, an increase largely driven by Boeing and other aerospace exports, which accounted for 54 percent of the total.
While much of the economy remains stagnate, the dollar value of Washington exports, which doesn’t include software, climbed 11 percent compared to 2013, according to the World Institute for Strategic Economic Research.
U.S. News and World Reports writes, “Right now, America is on the edge of several groundbreaking trade agreements that, once entered into, would expand the U.S. economy, raise living standards around much of the globe, create jobs and open markets to goods produced here at home just as this country embarks on a long-awaited manufacturing renaissance arising out of our prolonged domestic energy boom.
“The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership and the contemplated U.S.-E.U. trade agreement are like low-hanging fruit, just waiting to be plucked as America and the world move into the next stage of global commerce.”
For these agreements to be consummated, the negotiators for all the parties involved must have confidence that the agreements will be ratified. The heads of nations must have the authority to provide those assurances. The check and balance in our case is that Congress must approve the agreements.
Reaching trade agreements is complicated, but it is the only way to produce concessions on difficult issues like protecting e-commerce and intellectual property, where the rules of the road are still being written. It is also a way to resolve old arguments about the selling of automobiles and agricultural products.
Washington state has benefited from these agreements.
For example, the deal with South Korea allowed Washington cherry growers to double their exports by immediately eliminating a 24-percent tariff on sweet cherries. It also terminated a 15 percent tariff on wine and Washington wine sales grew by 25 percent in 2012.
The U.S. Trade Representatives’ Office reports over two-thirds of U.S. agricultural exports are now entering Korea duty free. By January 1, 2016, Korean tariffs on over 95 percent of U.S. industrial and consumer goods exports to Korea will have been eliminated. For Washington’s cattlemen, the 40 percent tariff on beef will be phased out over 15 years.
Looking ahead, trade negotiations will be fueled by continued growth in electronic communications and the Internet. U.S. News reports that about 35 percent of America’s gross domestic product – representing more than one-quarter of the nation’s jobs and 60 percent of our exports – comes from U.S.-based intellectual property technology.
That technology has driven advances in health care and medical research, improved farming methods, and created new ways of providing education outside traditional college campus settings.
Intellectual property protections are vital to companies such as Microsoft in our state.
Tom Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, summed it up when he told Congress that the United States cannot afford to stand on the sidelines as foreign governments rewrite the rules of international trade and American companies are placed at a competitive disadvantage in market after market.
If we do, American workers, farmers and companies will pay the price.
Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at theBrunells@msn.com.