Trade agenda missing one thing: Leadership from president

The United States and the European Union recently engaged in a fifth round of negotiations of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). This trade agreement seeks to open market access and enhance economic activity between the United States and the 28 countries of the European Union.

Since the end of the recession the United States has experienced slow economic growth. In fact, the U.S. economy contracted in the first quarter of 2014 and economic conditions in Europe remain weak. Globally, trade numbers have fallen and protectionist measures have risen despite assurances given by leaders of the G20 countries. Completion of TTIP would enhance economic opportunities, promote growth, and create jobs. But TTIP is much more than a simple commercial agreement. It is a vital American foreign policy imperative and builds on the transatlantic economic and security integration forged in the aftermath of World War II.

These negotiations are happening against a backdrop of important events. As the world saw with events in the Ukraine, Europe is vulnerable because of its dependence on Russian natural gas combined with fragile economic conditions. In addition, Russia recently concluded an agreement to send large quantities of natural gas to China. This will be a significant outlet for Russian gas, shielding it from sanctions, bolstering its energy export economy, and worsening prospects for energy security in Europe. The recent EU parliamentary elections have added complexity to this backdrop. Significant gains by parties on the far right and left have led to more anti-Americanism and rising sentiment against further European integration. The window of opportunity still exists before these events make a trade agreement untenable.

It is also important to recognize that prospects for liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports from the U.S. to Europe are an incentive to European negotiators to conclude TTIP and strengthen Europe’s energy security. 

The first LNG exports from Sabine Pass, the first LNG export facility, located in my district, are expected in late 2015 with other LNG facilities in my district coming online shortly after. The window of opportunity is quickly closing for Ukraine and other European countries to build the critical energy infrastructure to achieve this transatlantic energy market integration.

To finalize TTIP, the president must make it a top priority to gain the bipartisan support necessary for passage of Trade Promotion Authority. Passage sends a clear signal that Congress will meet its responsibility to fully engage in consultation with the executive branch to put the full diplomatic weight of the United States behind conclusion of a high quality TTIP agreement. American leadership is needed if we are to strengthen transatlantic ties by completing TTIP and the time to act is now. Economic security, energy security, and national security are vital parts of U.S. foreign policy and trade is the catalyst for action.

Boustany has represented Louisiana's 3rd Congressional District since 2005. He sits on the Ways and Means Committee.