TPP means the US will lead on trade

With 95 percent of the world’s population living outside our borders, the United States needs trade to compete in the 21st century global economy. But whose rules will we play by?

When it comes to trade in the Pacific region, we only have three options: our rules, China’s rules, or no rules at all. We already trade with all the countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and we are not going to stop trading with them. So our question is not trade or no trade, but whether the United States wants to lead or follow.

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The TPP is the largest — and most progressive — trade deal in history, and with its conclusion last month, the U.S. has a path toward reducing and eliminating more than 18,000 taxes on exported products, raising environmental standards around the world and creating more good-paying jobs here at home.

From cranberries to car engines to beef to computer parts, U.S. products will become more competitive in a region that represents more than 40 percent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP).

I have talked with many manufacturers and farmers who rely on exports, and one thing they always talk about is the need to open additional markets to sell products. In Wisconsin, we are the second-largest dairy producing state in the country, and this agreement will pave the way to opening historically closed markets such as Japan and Canada.

The United States is the undisputed world leader in cranberry production, but has been harmed by high tariffs and other barriers to trade disguised as safety regulations worldwide. The TPP will remove these barriers, allowing cranberry manufacturers in Wisconsin to fully take advantage of the growing appetite for this all-American product in Asia.

But the TPP isn’t just about selling more made-in-America products. It’s about creating better standards to begin leveling the playing field for our workers, businesses and farmers so they can successfully compete in the global economy. Already, the administration has said the TPP will have stronger labor and environmental standards than any previous U.S. trade agreement, a landmark achievement based on the bipartisan work of Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee and President George W. Bush in 2007.

The agreement represents an opportunity to replace the decades-old rules of the North American Free Trade Agreement and other pacts by requiring countries to adopt minimum wage laws, allowing workers to bargain collectively, and eliminating child labor and forced labor.

Perhaps most significantly, this deal has the potential to reach beyond the boundaries of the 12 countries that have concluded the agreement. Already, South Korea, Indonesia, and several in Latin America have expressed interest in joining the pact. As more countries become members, U.S. farmers, ranchers and manufacturers will be able to export more goods to more places than ever before. Expanding the number of countries in the TPP will help ensure that the trading system in the Asia-Pacific plays by our rules — not China’s or anyone else’s — for international trade.

Some have claimed that this agreement lacks transparency, which is completely false. The path to approval for the TPP will require more time and more transparency than any previous agreement.

Every member of Congress and every member of the public will have the opportunity to thoroughly review each part
of the agreement to ensure American workers got the best deal possible. The text will be available online to everyone for at least 60 days before the president signs it. Finally, Congress will have 90 days to examine the agreement before it comes up for a vote.

I look forward to carefully reviewing the final text of the TPP. It would be naive to assume it will be perfect, but it will represent years of U.S. negotiators working diligently to create a set of rules that level the playing field for American workers, support U.S. businesses and create new mechanisms to hold other countries accountable.

This set of rules, crafted with years
of U.S. input from the public and members of Congress, even if not absolutely perfect, will set the standard for years of international trade.

Kind has represented Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District since 1997. He sits on the Ways and Means Committee.