- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 6, 2001

Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) must be considered a key component of any comprehensive effort to resume our economic expansion by increasing job creation and developing new international markets. TPA has not been a partisan matter, as both Democratic and Republican presidents have used TPA to open markets abroad. The past seven presidents have all had the ability to reach binding trade agreements with other countries.

America continues to contend with the economic consequences of September 11, and Congress should grant President Bush TPA so that he can pursue every means of producing a strong economic recovery as quickly as possible. Without this power, our economic potential will always be compromised.

Although there are many reasons to grant Mr. Bush TPA, the most telling indictment of the current system may be simply pointing out a single, stark disparity 130 global trade agreements are currently in effect around the world, but the United States is a party to only three of those international trade deals. America is increasingly being shut out of international free trade opportunities because our trade negotiators must operate without the authority needed to succeed.

TPA would do a great deal to bring reluctant nations to the negotiating table with the prospect of securing binding agreements with the United States. Today, many countries avoid trade negotiations with our nation because American negotiators lack real authority.

Without TPA, every trade agreement is subject to endless amendment and modification. Congress has a constitutional obligation to approve trade agreements, but the current process is plagued by inefficiency and ineffectiveness.

Instead, we should equip negotiators with a policy approach that places faith in America's ability to compete successfully around the globe. Within the most vital business sectors of our economy, there is broad support for TPA. The reason: American entrepreneurs understand that expanded trade will increase economic security.

For American workers, free trade has constituted our most powerful engine for creating new, high-wage jobs. Specifically,

• Export-related jobs pay salaries that are 13 to 18 percent higher than the national average.

• Eleven states doubled their exports between 1993 and 2000.

• U.S. exports of goods and services are accelerating at a faster rate than our economy as a whole.

Exports drive the American economy, and expanded trade will mean greater economic strength and security for all Americans.

The arguments against free trade are tired and flow from a philosophy of economic defeatism. We should reject such false fears by embracing our potential to expand trade with worthy partners around the globe.

America's dynamic potential to compete in the world market has given us the highest standard of living in the world. America will always lead the world in creativity, innovation and productivity because we are the freest nation. Free trade is the answer to improving living standards both in the United States and in developing nations around the world.

This much is clear: Empowering the president by granting him Trade Promotion Authority will lead to greater economic strength and stability. Denying TPA to the president will trap our economy in a downward cycle of economic irrelevance.

The tide of history is rising toward a triad of economic truisms: Free trade exports freedom; democratic societies share strategic advantages over closed societies; and the growing recognition that consumers everywhere benefit from the greatest possible competition of goods and services.

It would be an historic blunder to chain the world's largest economy to the discredited policy of protectionism, a policy founded on the notion that America cannot successfully compete in the global marketplace.

The continued triumph of American democracy and capitalism requires the expansion of international commerce to wherever the benefits of that activity will reach individual citizens. Approval of TPA would help our nation pursue exactly that goal and it is the reason we are seeking the votes to pass legislation granting the president this vital power.

Rep. Tom DeLay is House majority whip.

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