The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

Free trade agreements could hurt our economy (Rep. Linda Sánchez and Rep. Mark Schauer)

After our first meeting at the White House last week, we believe that we should be cautious in advancing trade agreements negotiated by the prior Administration. We believe getting trade policy right is more important than acting with haste, particularly when we are talking about creating decent, well-paying jobs for the millions of Americans who cannot now find them.

We are committed to working with the President to develop a plan to help achieve the National Export Initiative’s (NEI) goal of doubling US exports over the next five years. We agree with the private sector members of the President’s Export Council that promoting travel and tourism, reforming our outdated “export control” systems that discourage overseas sales, and training our returning veterans to perform the high-skills, high-wage jobs will all help to achieve the NEI’s goal.

While we also agree that negotiating bilateral, regional, and multilateral trade agreements can assist in achieving the NEI’s objectives, we believe that such agreements will not improve the U.S. economy or reduce our trade deficit until we improve certain aspects of the pending agreements and strongly enforce existing agreements. Accordingly, we expressed our disagreement with the recommendations made in the letter from the private-sector members of the PEC to move forward quickly on the pending free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama.

At a time when our economy is struggling to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression, we caution against advancing these agreements without significant changes. A vital component of an export and jobs creation strategy is a trade agenda that does not repeat the mistakes of the previous administration.

We need to increase market access to US goods so that we are exporting products, not jobs. At the same time, we must make sure that trade agreements have strong enforcement provisions that target the most pressing barriers facing American workers and businesses. Specifically, these agreements must be improved to promote robust, attainable labor and environmental standards; make the investment chapter, including the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism, more equitable; and enhance existing provisions on import safety and government procurement.

The NEI is an ambitious challenge. By taking a collaborative, public-private approach to achieving the NEI’s goals, we can make significant progress in strengthening our country’s economy and creating millions of new jobs for American workers.


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