To compete in a global economy, TPA is crucial

Thanks to NH leadership, a bill is heading to the U.S. House

For New Hampshire’s economy to thrive, our companies need expanding markets in which to do business. But for nearly a decade, Congress has done nothing to put in place the one tool that is necessary to open up these markets: Trade Promotion Authority. Hopefully, that’s about to change.

Thanks to the leadership of Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte, the TPA bill has moved through the U.S. Senate. I urge our two congressional members, Annie Kuster and Frank Guinta, to reauthorize this proposal.

As founder of the International Trade Resource Center, I know firsthand how global trade is an essential ingredient in New Hampshire’s recipe for economic success. More than 2,600 New Hampshire businesses are exporters — 87 percent of which are small- and medium-sized businesses — with merchandise exports totaling more than $4 billion.

These goods are exported to more than 180 countries and support more than 20,000 American jobs.

New Hampshire’s bakers, educators, aerospace innovators and countless others depend on international trade to make a living. It’s these people (and those they would hire) who need TPA.

Many critics claim TPA is a power grab by big corporations or a giveaway to foreign competitors; that’s just not true.

TPA is a mechanism — agreed to between a president and Congress — on how to structure the legislative process for trade deals. For 100 years, presidents of both parties have negotiated common-sense approaches to trade with congresses that understood the importance of growing global opportunities for American businesses. But this came to an end in 2007 when the last version of TPA expired and wasn’t renewed for President Obama.

Since then, the White House has been negotiating several important trade deals that could positively impact New Hampshire’s businesses, workers and economy. But these trade deals won’t be finalized without the help of TPA, which streamlines the process and makes it difficult for a narrow set of legislators to undermine a trade deal for political reasons when the United States as a whole would benefit.

Some are particularly concerned with what they believe are “secret” aspects of the trade deals TPA would facilitate. But the answer is in the language of the proposal: TPA legislation requires significantly more transparency than would be the case without it. This includes a requirement that all trade deals be published for public review 60 days before they can be finalized. TPA also gives Congress a more active role in the trade negotiation process; ensuring legislative leaders can shape trade deals to benefit their constituents.

Some lawmakers are rightly concerned about the impact of trade on American workers and on the working conditions and labor standards of workers in other nations. This is where we can negotiate change in other countries’ labor practices. TPA can facilitate trade deals which also create U.S. jobs, while setting agreed upon standards for workers.

If we take part in these trade pacts, we can help make sure these deals protect workers. If we aren’t there, other nations — some with horrific labor and human rights records — will play the primary role in setting up the next generation of international trade rules.

If we fail to pass TPA, our businesses will be put at a significant competitive disadvantage in the global marketplace, and our workers, economy and communities will suffer as a result.

Expanded trade means more economic opportunity and more jobs for workers in the United States and right here in New Hampshire. If we are to compete in a global economy, passing TPA is essential for all of us. 

Dawn Wivell, CEO of Firebrand International, founded and is a former director of New Hampshire’s International Trade Resource Center in Portsmouth.

Categories: Opinion