Top U.S. exporters call for Trade Promotion Authority

In many U.S. cities, exports of American goods account for all post-recession growth.  Global demand for our products and innovation is growing as millions of people around the world join the middle class.  With 95 percent of customers living outside the U.S., continued global market access will keep us innovative and competitive.  This is why it’s so important to successfully negotiate and implement our pending free trade agreements, specifically the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). 

One of the keys to ensuring high-standard outcomes in these trade agreements is Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), a policy that has allowed the U.S. to build and expand its economy for the past 80 years.  It’s also a policy which, while last renewed in 2002, has unnecessarily languished since its expiration in 2007, tying the hands of innovative industries like specialty chemical manufacturing.

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U.S. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) told a global business group on Thursday, “The trade agenda starts with TPA.”  For members of the specialty chemical industry—one of America’s top exporters—truer words could not be spoken.  Half of our industry’s exports are purchased by America’s free trade partners.  With 33 more countries potentially becoming partners through TPP and TTIP, we see tremendous potential for growth, which allows our industry’s workers to remain among the highest paid in U.S. manufacturing.

Chairman Camp’s bill, the “Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act,” which was also introduced in the Senate by former Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), updates and improves TPA law and paves the way toward successful bipartisan agreement on a bold trade agenda.  The bill does three important things: it sets clear negotiating objectives for the Administration, establishes strong access to information requirements that ensure a transparent negotiation process for lawmakers and the public, and it gives Congress the final say in approving trade agreements.  

Even the administration is onboard with passing TPA.  A few weeks ago, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker told attendees at a trade policy event in Washington, D.C., that she is asking Congress to pass TPA.  In her words, “Inaction has real consequences.”  The TPP has the potential of generating $1.2 billion in export growth for the chemicals sector, with even more opportunities if all APEC economies were included.  With the TTIP, the U.S. would solidify and expand the relationship with its largest trading partner, the EU-28.  Two-way trade in chemicals totaled more than $51 billion in 2012, with U.S. chemical exports to the EU representing 6.2 percent of U.S. GDP.  The chemicals sector would be the top beneficiary for tariff elimination, paying $600 million in intracompany trade alone.  TTIP is estimated to increase U.S. chemical exports to the EU by more than $35 billion.

Right now, specialty chemical makers face challenges in many foreign markets because of costly and burdensome regulatory barriers and new global challenges that create unfair competition.  TPA would help unleash trade flows between domestic and foreign manufacturers—giving American businesses strong footing in the global marketplace.  Increased market access shows that not only is our nation open for business, but that other markets are open to U.S. manufacturers.  If we don’t take our products around the world, then someone else will. 

Congressional Democrats and Republicans in both chambers support TPA, the administration supports TPA, and a recent poll by the Winston Group shows 76 percent of the American public supports TPA.  There are few issues leaders in Washington can agree on these days, but it seems TPA could be one of the outliers.  We urge Congress to pass TPA legislation this year and ask the President to carry it across the finish line. 

Allmond is the vice president, Government and Public Relations, for the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA).