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Tom Donohue: The Benefits of Global Trade Hit Close to Home

The surge in commercial activity that will be made possible under major trade deals that the United States is negotiating with key global partners may seem worlds away for the average small business or consumer. But the truth is that the benefits of greater U.S. trade will hit very close to home.

Expanded access to foreign markets will help connect American businesses with more of the world’s customers — 95 percent of whom live beyond U.S. shores. With more customers, U.S. businesses can sell more goods and services, hire more employees and pump more revenue into the economy.

Already, one in three U.S. manufacturing jobs depends on exports. One in three acres of American farmland produces crops bound for consumers abroad. And one-third of all U.S. merchandise exports are sold by small and midsize businesses. New trade deals will boost growth for those American manufacturers, farmers and small enterprises that rely on exports.

Access to imports also provides real benefits for Americans. Imports mean lower prices and more choices for families as they try to stretch their budgets, boosting the average household’s purchasing power by about $10,000 each year. Access to imports also helps companies save on inputs and raw materials.

To get more of the job-creating, business-growing and cost-reducing benefits of trade, we need to complete work on several big deals.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership would grant the United States access to the world’s fastest-growing region, increasing U.S. exports to the Asia-Pacific and creating 700,000 new American jobs. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the EU would strengthen commercial ties between the world’s two largest trading partners, adding $125 billion to U.S. GDP and raising the purchasing power of the typical American family by nearly $900 annually.

The United States, along with some 50 other countries, is also negotiating a sweeping Trade in Services Agreement. The deal could boost U.S. service exports by up to $860 billion and create as many as 3 million new jobs. The World Trade Organization’s recently concluded Trade Facilitation Agreement will smooth global supply chains and enable more small and midsize companies to do business around the world.

Above all, we need congressional approval of Trade Promotion Authority, which will ensure effective executive-legislative collaboration in the negotiation of new trade pacts. Without it, these other agreements will remain out of reach.

As we work to tear down barriers between trading partners, we must also overcome political obstacles to stronger U.S. trade. The benefits for our economy, our businesses and our citizens are simply too good to refuse.

— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The opinions expressed are his own.

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