Dramatically increasing American exports is one of the best opportunities we have to create jobs, spur growth and reassert American leadership. Exports have been one of the rare bright spots in the American economy, and they have risen by more than 50 percent over the past five years. More than 38 million American jobs depend on trade.
Preferential agreements with trade partners have driven much of this growth, and they ensure that our commercial relationships are fair, transparent and create an even playing field for U.S. workers and businesses.
The benefits are broadly shared. Small- and medium-size companies account for 98 percent of all U.S. exporters, and 40 percent of their merchandise exports go to our partner countries. Exports of U.S. farm and food products to partner nations increased by more than 130 percent between 2003 and 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 2014, American manufacturers sold $674 billion in products to countries with which we have deals.
But we are only scratching the surface. More than 95 percent of the people we want to sell things to live outside our borders. We have negotiated 14 market-opening agreements covering only 20 countries and representing just 6 percent of the world’s population.
Opportunities abound — and if we don’t seize them, our competitors will.
The good news is that our nation aspires to conduct more trade. Our leaders are pushing an ambitious agenda to open up new markets and facilitate more global commerce. Major new agreements are under negotiation with two of the most crucial regions in the world.
The United States is close to completing negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, which would open the Asia-Pacific’s dynamic markets to American goods and services. TPP could boost U.S. exports by an annual $124 billion.
Also in the works is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which would further remove barriers between the United States and Europe. TTIP could increase U.S. exports by $300 billion annually and support some 740,000 new jobs.
Negotiating new trade agreements is essential to boosting our economy and making trade the next big American success story. Congress and the White House must work together to get the best deal for U.S. businesses and workers. For that to happen, we need to renew Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which allows Congress to set negotiating objectives for trade agreements and requires the executive branch to engage in close consultations with legislators throughout the course of trade talks.
Next week I’ll discuss why TPA is vital to moving our trade agenda forward and how the business community is leading efforts to advance legislation in Congress.
— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The opinions expressed are his own.