Tuesday, April 24 , 2018, 6:15 pm | Partly Cloudy 56º


Tom Donohue: Trade Presents a Bright Spot and a Big Opportunity

It’s easy to look at our divided and dysfunctional political system and conclude that our problems are intractable and our opportunities will fall by the wayside. It’s tempting to be dispirited by the rate of our economic recovery — the slowest in generations.

But rather than be discouraged, we should be determined to actively seize opportunities, like trade, that can help turn the situation around. Overseas buyers hungry for “made in the USA” goods and services have made the difference between stagnation and modest growth here at home. And given that trade has been a rare area of bipartisan agreement over the past several years, it presents new prospects for consensus among lawmakers.

The biggest opportunity before us is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, an ambitious agreement among 12 nations that accounts for nearly two-fifths of global GDP and one-third of all world trade. The TPP was a major topic at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Bali, which drew business and government leaders from around the globe, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The TPP would enable the United States to secure a better foothold in the Asia-Pacific, where American companies have been losing market share. The number of trade accords between Asian countries surged from three in 2000 to more than 50 today. Meanwhile, the United States has just three trade agreements in Asia.

American workers and businesses must be able to access the world’s most dynamic and fastest-growing region — and the TPP is the ticket. One study estimates that it could boost U.S. exports by $124 billion by 2025, generating hundreds of thousands of American jobs.

Beyond the TPP, the Chamber of Commerce is helping build support and momentum for other game-changing opportunities. One is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which would unleash commerce between the United States and Europe and rekindle badly needed growth and job creation on both sides of the pond. We’re pushing for a U.S.-China bilateral investment treaty, which could pave the way for a broader trade pact between the world’s two largest economies. And we need to renew Trade Promotion Authority to ensure effective executive-legislative cooperation on trade.

Such policies and agreements afford us the chance to overcome the seemingly insurmountable challenges we face. A forward-leaning U.S. trade agenda, beginning with completion and ratification of the TPP, could help us defy the trends of slow growth and government gridlock and show the world that the United States can act boldly to reassert its leadership, competitiveness and prosperity.

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

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