Buchanan Tampa Bay Times Op-Ed: Trade agreement will boost U.S. economy
By Rep. Vern Buchanan
Published April 29, 2015
America has long been a land of opportunity and the envy of the world. But today we face serious challenges from global competitors looking to replace us as the leading economic force in the world. China, India and a unified European bloc are vying to become the new global powerhouse of the 21st century.
In fact, China has already surpassed the United States as the world's largest economy, according to the International Monetary Fund. As China's economy has soared, America's annual growth rate has hovered below 3 percent for nearly a decade.
The status quo is not working.
One of the surest ways to grow our economy is by opening up foreign markets to American products. Nationally, more than 38 million American jobs are tied to trade.
Floridians know the importance of trade as it supports 2.4 million jobs in our state and over $100 billion in exports and imports annually.
Before coming to Congress, I was a businessman for over 30 years and a former chairman of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. I saw how critical trade agreements are to job creation and economic growth in the Sunshine State.
Currently, the United States has free trade agreements with 20 different countries. Over the past decade, exports from Florida to these nations grew by 72 percent. Much of this growth has been driven by countries with whom the United States recently executed free trade agreements, such as Colombia, Panama and Peru.
We must be mindful of the fact that 96 percent of the world's consumers and 80 percent of the world's purchasing power exist outside of the United States.
Accordingly, the future of American economic growth and job creation will depend largely on the expansion of trade and investment opportunities internationally.
As a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over U.S. trade policy, I know firsthand the importance of increasing access to foreign markets.
I recently traveled on a trade mission to the Asia-Pacific region where I met with world leaders to advance negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP — a free trade deal between the United States, Japan and 10 other countries that account for 40 percent of global economic output. This pending agreement offers us a prime opportunity to turbocharge our economy by eliminating tariffs and expanding American exports.
It could also provide Florida with an opening to increase exports of goods such as aerospace products, computer equipment and travel services to new foreign markets around the globe.
Make no mistake, TPP will set the standard for future trade deals and create the rules for how these countries trade with each other.
It is vitally important that the United States writes these rules — not China or some other competitor.
President Barack Obama, a staunch supporter of TPP, recently warned that "China wants to write the rules for the world's fastest-growing region." We cannot allow this to happen.
To help pave the way for passage of this important Pacific region trade bill, Congress is expected to vote next month on separate legislation that allows for streamlined consideration of trade agreements. This bipartisan bill (known as Trade Promotion Authority) ensures an open and transparent process that protects American workers and employers.
We need to do everything in our power to increase America's competitiveness in the global marketplace. Without it, tomorrow's good-paying jobs will be created in other countries.
Trade agreements like TPP — predicated upon accountability, enforceability and transparency — are vital to both America's economic security and national security. They can also serve as an excellent example of what Washington can accomplish when both parties work together to help create jobs and opportunity.
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, currently serving his fifth term, is a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee and its Health and Trade subcommittees and was recently named the newest member of the House Budget Committee. A Republican, he represents Southwest Florida, including Sarasota and Bradenton. He wrote this exclusively for the Tampa Bay Times.