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Bera and Gerwin: Getting 'LinkedIn' to Asia

America’s producers and workers have what it takes to take a bigger slice of Asia’s growing economic pie. The claim that “America doesn’t make anything anymore” is simply not true. The United States remains the world’s largest manufacturer, a global force in farming, and the world’s No. 1 exporter of services. For example, more than 20 percent of California’s agricultural production is for export and, in 2009 alone, California’s farm exports to Asia topped $3 billion, with more than $275 million going to India alone.

Agriculture is not the only export sector of the U.S economy that is helping to create domestic jobs. We excel at producing the products and services that an increasingly urban and affluent Asia wants and needs. From autos to aircraft, food to finance, and heavy equipment to health care, companies and consumers in Asia want to buy American. In fact, U.S. goods exported to the overall Asia-Pacific region in 2011 totaled $895 billion, representing 60 percent of total U.S. goods exports. But America will have trouble closing sales in the region — as long as U.S. exports face an array of trade barriers while our competitors enjoy preferred access under their growing network of trade deals.

This points to the pressing need for America to ramp up trade networking in Asia, beginning with a transparent effort by the Obama administration to conclude a high-standard Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal in 2013.

The TPP would tie together the United States and 10 other Asia-Pacific countries. It would establish new links with key emerging markets such as Malaysia and Vietnam, and would deepen and update trade arrangements with existing partners in areas including agriculture, services, labor and the environment. It would also include our neighbors Canada and Mexico, whose exports frequently contain a high proportion of U.S. content.

The TPP would also address new issues that are critical for a wide array of U.S. producers and workers, including protection of intellectual property, unfair competition from state-owned businesses, the efficiency of global supply chains, and reducing barriers that particularly affect small exporters. And moving forward, the TPP’s strong and fair trade rules would encourage other nations to join our expanding regional trade network and incentivize lucrative markets like China and India to eliminate barriers to American exports.

Economists project that in the decades ahead, annual U.S. growth will average about 2.3 percent — a full point less than our historical average. To support stronger growth and good jobs, America must tap into Asia, where countries are growing two, three or even four times faster.

And, like a talented worker seeking a better job, that means we’ll need to get “LinkedIn” to Asia.

Rep. Ami Bera, a Democrat, represents California’s 7th District. Ed Gerwin is senior fellow for trade and global economic policy at Third Way.

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