- - Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Without trade, one in five workers in the United States would not have a job. That is how important trade is to our economy, and that is why it must continue to be expanded through global partnerships and trade agreements.

However, these agreements have had difficulty getting support in recent years. In 2007, the president’s ability to negotiate trade deals with other countries – known as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) – expired. Without it, our international economic allies have been reluctant to approve any partnerships.

TPA does not just hand over the keys to the president, though. It ensures input from Congress during trade negotiations, provides for greater transparency throughout the process and gives Congress the final say with an up-or-down vote on any deal.

In what some might call an odd pairing, Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means and Wisconsin Republican, and President Obama are on the same side of this issue. But the president’s support should not dissuade folks from standing up for the reauthorization of TPA.

As Mr. Ryan, the 2012 GOP vice presidential candidate, has said about the president on this subject: “Look, a broken clock is right twice a day.”

But why is it so important for the president to have the authority to negotiate trade agreements? The answer is simple. Most of the world’s consumers live outside of the U.S. – 95 percent to be exact. With a very large majority of the world’s purchasing power outside of our country, we have to be able to sell products to consumers around the globe.

And the research shows that a majority of the countries that purchase American goods and services are the ones that have free trade agreements with us. In 2012, countries that had free trade agreements with the U.S. purchased 12.8 times more goods per capita than countries without agreements.

In fact, trade supports nearly 40 million jobs in the U.S. right now — from states like California and Texas, which have 4.7 million and 3 million trade-related jobs, respectively, to states like Indiana and Wisconsin with 797,000 and 785,000 trade-related jobs.

Every state in the U.S. benefits from strong free trade agreements, and TPA will help encourage more free trade in the future.

Not only does trade support millions of jobs around our country, it has been a catalyst for economic growth over the last decade. From 2004 to 2013, trade-related employment has grown 3.5 times faster than the overall economy.

But what does this mean for the everyday American consumer?

Essentially, it means lower prices. Free trade allows companies to manufacture goods more efficiently, leading to lower prices. Plus, it increases competition in the market, again leading to lower prices.

Thanks to these trade policies, an average American family of four saves about $10,000 a year.

Without TPA, negotiating free trade agreements will become more difficult, and the U.S. economy will suffer because of it. TPA will also guarantee that the public is not left out of the conversation.

Any member of Congress has the right to attend negotiations and provide input. Additionally, the final deal must be published at least 60 days before the president signs it, allowing for even more say from the public. And lastly, Congress gives the president its seal of approval before any deal is finalized.

The Senate has already approved TPA, and the House is expected to vote on the matter as early as Friday. Hopefully members think long and hard about the best way to keep our economy moving forward.

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