Opinion Pieces

Why I Support President Obama on Trade

Washington, June 4, 2015 | Tia Shuyler (202-225-4376)
Tags: Economy
In the coming weeks, I expect to vote to support a package of four critical trade bills requested by President Obama and passed through the Senate with significant bipartisan majorities, including both of Virginia’s Democratic Senators. These bills, including Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), will establish historic multilateral negotiations with our international trade partners while securing important worker protections for American jobs and trade support to developing economies, critical to global poverty alleviation efforts. 

I am, by education and political philosophy, a free trade Democrat. I was born overseas, my U.S. Army father stationed in Italy. I worked in Switzerland for four years as U.S. Ambassador. I have sold and serviced international nameplate cars for more than 40 years. I have seen, up close, the enormous impact trade has on our way of life.

A sustainable economy cannot grow from within. The United States has less than five percent of the global population, and we must be able to sell our products and services to the rest of the world.
The central goals of the proposed new trade agreements – the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) and the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – are to reduce other nations’ high barriers to American trade AND to elevate the environmental and labor regulations in those countries. For example, information technology and communications products face tariffs of up to 35 percent in TPP countries. Malaysia currently taxes U.S. auto imports in favor of their Asian neighbors. Even Australia restricts U.S. turkey imports to protect domestic producers. 

Under TPA, the US will require our trading partners to protect the right to form a union and bargain collectively, and to enforce workplace safety rules. We will require our trading partners to enforce rules against overfishing, illegal logging and wildlife trafficking. And if they don’t they will be subject to American trade sanction. 

There have been many briefings on Capitol Hill this year on the pros and cons on TPA and the possible trade agreements. I have tried to attend every one possible, and have carefully studied the relevant material.

The US has a trade surplus in goods with our Free Trade Agreement partners, as compared to huge deficits with countries with whom we do not have trade agreements. Of course, we run a large trade deficit with China, which is all the more reason to negotiate a major agreement with its neighbors.

I am convinced that the objections raised – from concern about the ability to enforce the higher standards, to confusion about mediation between investors and states, to fears about net job loss – are well-intentioned, but insufficient to overcome the powerful benefits of moving forward with expanded trade relations on American terms.

President Obama has made the strong case if the United States does not set the rules for international trade, China will. This is then both a human rights imperative and a strategic national security necessity.

I look forward to standing with our President, and for aggressive job creation and economic growth, in voting for trade promotion authority, the next step toward expanded trade for America.