President Obama gave a speech in Tokyo Saturday announcing the Administration’s plans to engage with the Trans Pacific Partnership countries to shape a regional agreement, an engagement that could produce real benefits for U.S. exporters and manufacturers. The Asia-Pacific region is the world’s fastest growing both in terms of trade and in the number of trade agreements being negotiated.  The NAM has long called for a trans-pacific trade agreement that would open up the region to U.S. exports.  America’s manufacturers cannot afford to be on the outside of an Asian trade wall looking in.

Reacting to the President in a statement, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk made the case that a high-standard regional trade agreement under the Trans Pacific Partnership could help generate American jobs and economic prosperity.  (USTR fact sheet.) Exports will be the driver of U.S. economic recovery, but only if they have open access to world markets.

Strong U.S. leadership will be necessary to achieve a regional Pacific agreement that includes the highest standards already incorporated in U.S. bilateral agreements.  The United States currently has bilateral agreements with four of the seven Trans Pacific partners – Australia, Chile, Peru, and Singapore. (The others are New Zealand, Brunei, and Vietnam.) None of the gains for American manufacturers that were negotiated in those agreements should be abridged in any way, including intellectual property and investment protections and market access commitments. 

We were also pleased to see President Obama’s urging other nations to join the United States in demanding an ambitious and balanced Doha agreement, “not any agreement, but an agreement that will open up markets and increase exports around the world.”  This is the only road to success for the Doha Round.

The President’s focus on trade and trade agreements highlighted in his Asian trip should not, however, push other trade priorities off the table. On the contrary, they should produce a concerted effort to resolve any last issues with the three pending trade agreements – Colombia, Korea, and Panama – so these can be sent to Congress for approval.

News coverage…

Frank Vargo is Vice President, International Economic Affairs, National Association of Manufacturers

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