Column by Pat Tiberi
Ohio’s not just known for the Buckeyes. Our great state also has a reputation for manufacturing top products.
Whether it’s detergent and home products, auto engines and tires or ATMs and safety glass, Ohio and Ohioans are known for quality goods and services. Our reputation precedes us, not just in the United States, but around the world. Ohio is among the country’s top 10 largest exporting states, sending goods and services to more than 200 markets across the globe. In fact, more than one in five jobs in Ohio relies on trade.
You’d never know this though if you were in Ohio during election season. The airwaves are plastered with ads about how trade agreements shut down factories and cause massive job loss. Trade has sure gotten a black eye, but the dirty truth is that technology causes most of the job losses, not trade agreements. I’ve toured manufacturing companies across my district where 20 years ago 10 people worked on a shop floor, but now there’s only one worker making the same products. Technology has improved. The economy is changing. In fact, it’s trade that’s creating more jobs in the United States and in Ohio.
Take the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) for example, an agreement that has taken a beating. Political ads pair the word NAFTA with shuttered businesses; however, the reality is much different.
The United States has trade surpluses with Canada and Mexico in the manufacturing, services, agriculture, food and beverage industries. Since NAFTA was enacted, U.S. exports to partner nations have tripled. A U.S. Chamber of Commerce study found that 14 million American jobs depend on trade with NAFTA markets and 5 million have resulted from NAFTA trade increases.
In Ohio, our exports to Canada and Mexico have increased by $16.3 billion since 1993, the year before the agreement was enacted. It’s not just NAFTA; Ohio’s exports of motor vehicles to Korea have increased fivefold, from $26 million to $141 million in the two years since the free trade agreement with Korea went into effect. The bottom line is when Ohio’s employers have access to new markets and new customers around the world on a level playing field, they increase production to meet increased demand. With more than 95 percent of the world’s consumers living outside the United States, having access to them is the way we can grow American businesses and create jobs.
It’s important to understand the benefits of trade as the United States is currently negotiating trade agreements with 11 Asia-Pacific countries, 28 member countries of the European Union, and 22 other countries for a Trade in Services Agreement. What’s often not talked about is that overall we have a trade surplus with the 20 nations we already have trade agreements with. Access to even more consumers would help American businesses grow. Agreements with the Asian-Pacific and European nations alone would open markets to nearly 1 billion consumers. But to move forward with these agreements, Congress needs to pass what’s called Trade Promotion Authority.
Trade Promotion Authority increases the United States’ negotiating position and strengthens the role Congress plays in setting trade policy. It empowers Congress to set negotiating priorities and gives the administration instructions for negotiating. TPA also outlines strict reporting requirements and transparency measures guaranteeing that Congress and the public are fully informed. TPA doesn’t give the president any additional authority; it just spells out the kind of trade deals Congress will consider. TPA reinforces Congress’ constitutional responsibility in approving trade agreements by giving us an up-or-down vote on implementation or, if negotiations go awry, it allows Congress to eliminate TPA procedures altogether.
Our most recent trade agreements – agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama – were negotiated using TPA. Members from both sides of the aisle, from Sen. Ted Cruz to President Barack Obama, support TPA – as do groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Farm Bureau and the National Association of Manufacturers. But with critics who try to spread the false accusation that trade is bad, we need leadership from President Obama, and from leaders on the right to get the facts out there.
America’s new Congress has made a commitment to focus on growing the economy and promoting job creation. Completing these trade agreements so American companies can compete on a level playing field in new markets around the world mean more American jobs. TPA puts Congress in the driver’s seat and gives our negotiators the upper hand during these negotiations. Passing it should be a priority in Washington, so there is opportunity to create new jobs on Main Street.