Like our ports, the TPP is a gateway to our future

Over the last few months, Congress and the public have reviewed the details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to learn more about its 18,000 tax cuts and how it will raise standards for international trade in the 21st century. As mayors of great American cities whose ports are our nation’s gateways to the world, we know how important it is to open our doors to reach the three billion middle class consumers who will live in the Asia-Pacific by 2030. 

Rather than close our gateways, build a fortress, and retreat to the past, this tough trade agreement would set new rules to support good-paying, middle-class jobs, broaden opportunities to export American goods to fast-growing markets around the world, while promoting inclusive development and safeguarding our environment and labor rights. We must seize this opportunity.

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Since the Great Recession, our economy has bounced back: we have seen 71 months of consecutive job creation and the lowest unemployment rate since 2008. Trade is an essential part of that story. Nearly one-third of our economic growth in the recovery has been export driven. Our cities have played a key role in this comeback -- our ports are the literal gateways for American businesses, large and small, providing goods in markets overseas. 

But our work is not done. Even as our economy rebounds from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, many families have yet to see the benefits of this recovery. By passing TPP and eliminating barriers to sell American goods to more consumers, 95 percent of whom live abroad, we will create jobs at home: the Peterson Institute for International Economics’ recent report projected TPP will support 800,000 additional export-related jobs and raise wages for both skilled and unskilled American workers. These higher-paying, export-elated jobs, which pay 18 percent more than average, will help cities with major ports, like Houston, Tacoma, Tampa, or Los Angeles.

As the global middle-class grows larger, its demand for American goods creates more opportunity for U.S. exporters like aerospace manufacturers in Washington, beef producers in Texas, and citrus farmers in Florida. We’re seeing the effects of this demand already -- from expanding the Panama Canal to accommodate new and larger ships, to the dredging of new deepwater ports across the Americas. These infrastructure investments are already driving new job growth, but it is up to us to capitalize on this movement and ensure our economy keeps pace.

Despite these economic benefits, many fellow Democrats have expressed concern. We understand -- trade deals of the past haven’t always lived up to their promises. This agreement is a compromise between 12 different nations, and compromises are never perfect. But this deal is about the future. For the first time, TPP requires our partners, like Vietnam, Malaysia, and Mexico, to implement tough, new labor protections that will raise standards abroad. This has major benefits for American workers and ensures working families see a greater share of gains: the Peterson Institute’s report found TPP benefits labor disproportionately more than capital. And as our economy creates good-paying export jobs, the Peterson Institute’s report showed the impact of transitioning from lower- to higher-productivity sectors would be relatively small, as labor market “churn” (economists’ term for total job changes) would increase by only 0.1 percent per year.

Armed with the facts, Congress now faces a choice: work with our partners to write rules that protect American workers and ensure that the deck isn’t stacked against working families; or turn inward and allow the future economy to be shaped by those who do not share our vision of a world that is more free and fair. As a candidate in 2008, then Sen. Barack ObamaBarack ObamaObama ex-physician mainstreams Clinton health reporting True immigration reform involves three branches of government Michele Bachmann: God picked Trump to be the GOP nominee MORE said, “Now there are some who believe that we must try to turn back the clock on this new world, that the only chance to maintain our living standard is to build a fortress around America, to stop trading with other countries, to shut down immigration, rely on old industries. I disagree. Not only is it impossible to turn back the tide of globalization, but efforts to do so could actually make us worse-off. So rather than fear the future we have to embrace it.”

The TPP is an opportunity to embrace our future by shaping the forces of globalization so we can sell more American goods and raise wages. We urge Congress to pass this deal, help grow our economy to support the middle-class, and guarantee that American values drive the forces of technology and globalization in the 21st century. 

Buckhorn (D) is the mayor of Tampa. Parker (D) is the former mayor of Houston. Strickland (non-partisan) is the mayor of Tacoma. They are members of the Progressive Coalition for American Jobs.