Renewed Trade Agreements Will Keep the US Competitive

Throughout the last decade, I have watched as trade transformed communities in Texas from areas of marginal business activity to some of the most rapidly developing counties in the nation. My hometown of Laredo now serves as the largest inland port in North America and takes in 60% of all North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) traffic. But NAFTA and our current trade agreements are not enough. If we want to remain competitive and continue to improve Americans' lives, we must keep on pushing for deeper trade liberalization. Thomas Friedman's recent writing on keeping America competitive really strikes a chord with me. He wrote, "If globalization were a sport, it would be a 100-meter dash, over and over and over. And no matter how many times you win, you have to race again the next day."

Racing and winning means not only creating jobs here at home but also ensuring that American consumers have access to affordable imports. With this in mind, the Congress must quickly renew key trade preferences for our allies in the developing world. In this period of post-election bipartisan cooperation, I believe that the renewal of trade preferences is something members of Congress from both sides of the aisle can agree on. As the Washington Post editorialized yesterday morning. "It shouldn't matter whether you're a conservative or liberal, for globalization or against: Some trade bills are so obviously beneficial and unobjectionable that there's no excuse for letting them languish."

The expiration of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA) on December 31 makes action particularly urgent. While completed free trade agreements with Peru and Colombia and future negotiations with Ecuador and Bolivia are considered, we must act quickly in extending preferences to all four countries. The failure to renew these preferences would not only create economic chaos in Latin America but also would raise prices for U.S. consumers and hurt U.S. companies working in these countries. In the increasingly globalized world in which we live, damage to U.S. companies operating abroad will have repercussions on our own workers here at home.

It is also important to ensure that any renewal of GSP include products from Brazil and India. While some see the exclusion of these countries as a just way to punish countries whose positions did not match our own during the recently stalled round of Doha global trade talks, I believe their exclusion from the GSP system would only serve to hold up further progress on opening markets for American business. Just as importantly, the exclusion of Brazilian and Indian products from GSP would undermine American companies' competitiveness in domestic and foreign markets.

The renewal of GSP and ATPA over the past decade has been a quiet, bipartisan activity which has had a significant impact in keeping American workers competitive and increasing consumer choice. Let's continue this bipartisan spirit by renewing these trade preferences before the 109th Congress adjourns.