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Tom Donohue: Be Bold on Trade — Or Be Left in the Dust

It's economically imperative for America to act now on an aggressive new agenda

America’s global trade agenda stands at a crossroads. With the victory of passing long-delayed free trade agreements (FTAs) with Colombia, Panama and South Korea behind us, new challenges and opportunities in trade loom large. Moving forward boldly is no longer a luxury — it’s an economic imperative.

Trade can strengthen our economy and help restore American economic leadership at home and abroad. It can create hundreds of thousands of jobs without increasing taxes or adding to the deficit. It can help attract foreign investment that will spur our economy and put even more Americans back to work.

At a recent meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in Hawaii, leaders charted the path forward for trade in the fastest-growing region of the world. The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement topped the agenda, and TPP’s completion would expand American access to booming markets in the Asia-Pacific.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has urged TPP negotiators to draft a bold and creative agreement. TPP should iron out regulatory disparities that often lead to protectionism or unfair competitive advantages. It needs to eliminate supply chain obstructions to improve efficiency and predictability. And it must enforce strong intellectual property protections to enable companies to grow and compete globally. An ambitious TPP agreement would create jobs, spur growth and strengthen America’s commercial, strategic and geopolitical ties across the Asia-Pacific.

Additionally, America must leverage its potential for stronger transatlantic trade. The European Union is our largest international economic partner. If we just eliminated tariffs on trade in goods between the United States and the EU, we could boost trade by more than $120 billion within five years. And we could create even more jobs if we open up trade in services, promote investment and tackle regulatory barriers to trade.

We should also begin clearing the obstacles to new trade agreements with booming emerging markets such as Brazil, Egypt and India. To that end, Congress must renew trade promotion authority so that potential trade partners can negotiate agreements with us without fear of Congress picking them apart piece by piece.

Finally, let’s seize the benefits of international investment. Foreign investment here sustains 5 million American jobs, and U.S. investment abroad is often the only way we can tap key overseas markets. We must negotiate more bilateral investment treaties.

If America stands still on trade — like we did for five years on the recently passed FTAs, allowing our competitors to surge ahead with their own agreements — we’ll be left in the dust. It’s time to commit to an aggressive new agenda for international trade and investment.

— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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