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House Must Pass Trade Promotion Authority | Commentary

As former chairmen and ranking members of the House Ways and Means Committee, each of us has been part of extensive trade negotiations. None of us has ever seen Trade Promotion Authority legislation as robust and transparent as the one before Congress today. We urge our former colleagues to support TPA when it is considered in the House and deliver a win for American workers and the national economy.

Benefits of Trade

American workers benefit when the United States has strong international trade agreements. More than 11.7 million U.S. jobs were tied to trade in 2014 — an increase of 1.8 million jobs in 5 years. But we are far from realizing the full potential trade represents for U.S. jobs and production: 96 percent of the world’s consumers live outside of the United States and we only have 14 free trade agreements in place with 20 nations. To boost exports of American goods and support American jobs and production, we need strong trade agreements that reduce foreign tariffs and other trade barriers.

Why We Need TPA

The United States is working to further expand and improve free trade through two major efforts: the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. The TPP would facilitate U.S. exports to 11 countries around the Pacific Rim. The T-TIP would further improve the already-strong trading relationship between the United States and the European Union — the two largest economies in the world — by lowering tariffs, strengthening intellectual property protections and facilitating cross-border investment.

Together, the countries involved in these two trade negotiations represent 60 percent of all U.S. exports. The TPP and T-TIP offer the opportunity to increase our exports into these markets. The TPA legislation currently under consideration would not only expedite these agreements, but would give Congress appropriate oversight of the negotiations.

What TPA Is and Isn’t

TPA only creates the process for negotiating and considering trade deals. Congress always gets the final say on any trade agreement in a separate vote. In short, TPA constrains the executive branch to respect the will of the people as represented in Congress.

The TPA legislation produced by the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee would allow members of Congress to attend trade negotiating sessions and to have access to negotiating text at any time. The bill also requires that any agreement must be published in full at least 60 days before any vote, allowing the public a chance to review and comment on it.

These are extraordinary developments that will not only strengthen future agreements, but also enhance congressional oversight of and adherence to the trade policy priorities we espouse.

Courage to Do the Right Thing

Free trade will promote the prosperity of our great nation, strengthen our economic ties with other nations, promote healthy competition around the globe and allow all nations to realize improved economic opportunity. Long after each of us is gone, the benefits of these decisions will continue to enrich future generations.

As President Ronald Reagan said, “There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers.”

TPA is not an easy undertaking, but it simply must be done. We commend its many champions and urge the House to approve it.

Ex-Reps. Bill Archer, R-Texas; Bill Thomas, R-Calif.; Jim McCrery, R-La.; and Dave Camp, R-Mich., are former chairmen or ranking members of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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