Trade jubilation in Washington

Benjamin Franklin once said: “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!”

{mosads}During the cantankerous trade debate that flourished in Washington over the last few weeks, we all learned that democracy actually works. At the end of the day, everyone had his or her say, and we have progressed on a trade path that best serves the country.

Usually, trade acronyms like TPA, TPP, TAA, AGOA and GSP will elude the careful scrutiny of the general public, left only to bureaucrats to sort out their true meaning and direction. However, during this debate, along came the liberals who said that we must protect the American workers and the environment, saying that we are empowering big business to take advantage of our banking and taxation systems. Then along came the conservatives who don’t want to give our president more authority. Then along came organized labor, who felt that we are exporting jobs rather than importing opportunities. Then along came a spider who said that we can catch all this in a web, one that works for all.

Perhaps the greatest lesson learned from this whole process is that President Obama worked in concert with Congress, rather than against it. When they all pulled together, great things happened. As we approach our mid-summer break, “Dependence Day” sounds a lot better than Independence Day this year. For the new presidential aspirants that will hit the stump over July Fourth, they should carefully review the results of these past weeks and look to the one focal point that Americans crave the most: a harmonious government, one that pulls together (after vigorous and civil discourse).

Following the proverb “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” one saw how beautifully House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) summed up the debate, before the final passage of H.R. 1295 (Trade Preferences Extension Act). Not conceding defeat by any means, she turned it all around with the following excerpts:

“We don’t believe in trickle-down economics at home, and we do not believe in trickle-down trade policy where it helps people at the top, entitles at the top and then trickles down, maybe to workers. …

[W]e must recognize the relationship between trade policy and people’s lives. …

[A]t the end of the day, the final product will be something that we can rally around or understand why certain decisions had to go a certain way, but not something that is just put there to say up or down; you either understand that we live in a global economy or you do not. That is, you know, condescending, not worthy, really of the debate and certainly not worthy of our responsibility to America’s working families.”

Happy Dependence Day, Mr. President! You earned this victory, and you earned it for all of us.

Helfenbein is chairman of the board of the American Apparel and Footwear Association. He is a strong advocate for a robust U.S. trade agenda and lectures frequently on the subjects of supply chain and international trade. Follow him on Twitter @rhelfen.

Tags Barack Obama fast-track fast-track trade authority Nancy Pelosi TPA Trade trade agreement trade promotion authority
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