By former Gov. Christine Gregoire (D-Wash.), former Gov. Deval Patrick (D-Mass.) and former US Trade Representative Ron Kirk - 02/17/16 08:00 AM EST
All the way from New Zealand, we heard the message loud and clear: the moment has arrived to replace the status quo with a new deal that puts American workers first. On Wednesday, the United States joined with 11 other nations to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade deal years in the making that will raise wages, create jobs, protect the environment, and empower workers at home and abroad. This ambitious deal will benefit the American middle class and bring the U.S. economy into the 21st century by slashing 18,000 needless and burdensome taxes on Made-In-America goods and setting unprecedented labor standards for our trading partners.
Before the deal can take effect, Congress must vote on it. After months of painstaking public review, Congress has not yet acted. Continued delay is not without its costs. The Peterson Institute for International Economics report released last week found that a single year’s delay in implementing this agreement will set the U.S. economy back $77 billion. And as Congress waits, China and other countries that do not share our progressive values on trade will keep advancing their trade agendas in the fastest growing region of the world.
For workers at small- and medium-sized businesses who have fought hard to compete in a global marketplace stacked against Made-In-America goods, the passage of this deal will help shore up their jobs and boost wages as they gain greater access to new markets around the world.
That means more opportunity for cotton farmers in Texas and cranberry producers and tech innovators in Massachusetts will see new and commercially meaningful market access for their products. Companies like Jeff Hohman’s in Pullyaup, Washington, which employs 245 people and manufactures doors, has increased its trade with the Pacific region by 50 percent. The passage of this deal will allow Jeff’s company and countless other businesses across America to keep producing quality products while supporting thousands of jobs here at home.
Moreover, these jobs pay more than non-export related jobs – 18 percent higher on average. This means better and higher-paying jobs for the millions of Americans currently employed in the export sector. And while supporting good jobs at home, TPP extends unprecedented protections for workers, wages, and the environment to some of the most vulnerable parts of the world.
President Obama has built a powerful legacy of job creation and progressive protections for citizens and our environment: 14.1 million jobs added over a record 70 straight months of job growth. Cutting unemployment in half since the calamity awaiting him when he took office. A historic climate change agreement in Paris. In his final State of the Union this past month, the President reminded us that “[f]or the past seven years, our goal has been a growing economy that works better for everybody. We've made progress. But we need to make more.” This is how we do more.
As elected leaders, we learned firsthand the positive impact that trade can have on jobs and local economies. We urge Congress to act quickly to secure the most progressive trade deal in history and ensure that it is the United States that writes the rules of the road on trade in the years to come. And we urge every citizen to contact their elected leaders in Congress to press them to act. With the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, continued progress for America’s middle class is at our doorstep. Congress must open the door.
Gregoire was governor of Washington from 2005 to 2013. Patrick was governor of Massachusetts from 2007 to 2015. Kirk was USTR from 2009 to 2013. The three serve as the Advisory Board for the Progressive Coalition for American Jobs.