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A Bipartisan Opportunity for Jobs | Commentary

From the Buckeye State to the Evergreen State, Americans want their elected officials to focus on supporting economic growth. And, wouldn’t it be nice if Democrats and Republicans worked together for a change?

Trade Promotion Authority offers us exactly this opportunity: a bipartisan economic initiative that will support American job creation and keep our nation competitive in the global economy while not costing taxpayers any money.

We were pleased to hear the president’s recent nominee to the post of U.S. trade representative, Mike Froman, embrace TPA, a power requested by every president since Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his Finance Committee confirmation hearing. It seems that the president — who included a request for TPA in his 2013 trade agenda — is serious about pursuing new trade agreements. That’s good news for our economy.

This expedited authority, which expired in 2007, would allow the president to negotiate and submit export agreements to Congress for a clean up-or-down vote without amendments. TPA also would outline principles and framework for trade negotiations, while ensuring continued congressional consultation. TPA principles have guided U.S. bilateral negotiations with countless countries from Chile to Australia, helping us knock down barriers to exports.

Although all of our trade agreement partners combined only make up about 10 percent of global gross domestic product, America sends more than 45 percent of our exports to them.

Exports are vital to our economy, supporting nearly 10 million American jobs. More than 1 in 3 jobs in Washington state is dependent on international trade. And in Ohio, more than one-quarter of manufacturing jobs are dependent on exports. Exports support American-made products and jobs, from soybean farmers and auto manufacturers in the Midwest to cherry growers and airplane manufacturers in the Pacific Northwest.

But we need to ensure that these jobs continue to grow under a 21st-century trade-negotiating framework. By creating a comprehensive, high-standard model for trade, we can establish new trade disciplines and structure agreements that include enforceable provisions on issues important to our domestic workforce and businesses

Passing TPA is crucial to asserting America’s leadership in the global economy. With competitors such as China creating alliances around the world daily, we must proactively engage our trading partners to improve access for American goods and to knock down unfair barriers. Equally important, these agreements allow us to hold our competitors’ feet to the fire when they don’t play by the rules.

Time is of the essence. The European Union has nine trade agreements under negotiation, and the number of trade agreements between Asian countries has also soared, from three in 2000 to more than 50 in 2011.

One of the agreements the United States is negotiating is the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The United States and Japan recently announced an agreement for Japan’s entry into Trans- Pacific Partnership negotiations. Japan’s inclusion would open the world’s third-largest market for American-made goods and force Japan to address unfair barriers that hurt American auto exports. With Japan included, trade among the Trans-Pacific Partnership countries would equal about one-third of all global trade, accounting for nearly 40 percent of global GDP.

The Asia-Pacific region represents a tremendous opportunity to sell American-made products abroad. According to the U.S. trade representative, in 2010, 69 percent of Washington state exports and 68 percent of Ohio exports went to the Asia-Pacific region. By removing trade barriers such as high tariffs or regulatory hurdles, the TPP will only serve to increase exports further.

At the same time, the U.S. is negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which would expand access to the European Union.

Europe is currently America’s largest export market, purchasing $459 billion in American-made goods that support 2.4 million jobs in the United States. We believe this agreement, if properly constructed, could be a catalyst for greater economic growth on both continents.

Passing Trade Promotion Authority will provide added leverage to negotiate agreements in a timely fashion while ensuring congressional oversight.

As President Barack Obama said, this authority will “facilitate the conclusion, approval and implementation of market-opening negotiating efforts.” Some 535 negotiators on Capitol Hill can’t carry out complex trade consultations. TPA allows the president to negotiate trade agreements, while ensuring critical congressional oversight and allowing Congress to shape those agreements’ principal negotiating objectives and priorities. These priorities include important issues such as intellectual property rights and emerging technologies, the role of state-owned enterprises and protectionist local content requirements, and labor and environmental standards. Through TPA, Congress can ensure that future trade agreements reflect the best interests of Americans. In short, Trade Promotion Authority is a symbol of the partnership that exists between the executive and legislative branches of government in developing and facilitating global exports to support American jobs.

Now is the time for Congress to push forward and lead, giving American exporters — and American jobs — the edge in the global economy.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, was elected to the Senate in 2010 after serving as congressman, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and the U.S. trade representative. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., has served as a senator for the state of Washington since 2001. Both are members of the Senate Finance Committee.

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