President Obama released his 2011 Trade Agenda on Tuesday. It seems a bit more forward in promising action on trade than in previous years, which is good. America has effectively been in a time-out on trade for the last four years, and our industrial competitors around the world have been using that to their distinct advantage. The European Union, Korea, Canada, Australia and other nations have been in a flurry of bilateral and regional trade agreement negotiations that will provide their exports with preferential treatment at the expense of our own.
The President’s 2011 agenda sets forth a number of highly laudable goals, including passage of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA), continued support for the National Export Initiative (NEI) goal of doubling U.S. exports in five years, concluding a balanced and ambitious agreement to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha Round, finishing negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and bringing Russia into the WTO. He also promises engagement with Colombia and Panama to resolve outstanding issues so they can be sent to Congress for approval. President Obama also calls for strong enforcement of our trade laws, strong protection of our intellectual property, commits to continuing America’s core strengths in innovation and competitiveness.
The agenda is certainly one that manufacturers can endorse. Two-thirds of U.S. exports are manufactured goods.
It’s one thing to set goals, and another to deliver them. On the pending FTAs, the National Association of Manufacturers wants all three pending agreements submitted to Congress and acted upon as quickly as possible. Passing the three pending FTAs is the fastest way to aid our national goal of doubling exports. The Korean deal is huge for manufacturers. The strides Colombia has made over the last decade are nothing short of astounding, and the commitments it has already lived up to in addressing labor issues have been exemplary. Panama has met all demands made upon it. There is strong bipartisan support in Congress for all three agreements, and it is quite possible we could celebrate Flag Day by opening three new markets worth $13 billion annually in increased U.S. exports. By the Administration’s math, that’s more than 60,000 new jobs that could be created.
On the WTO Doha Round, the Administration has been correct in refusing to settle for the anemic texts on the table – they do not open high-value markets in advanced developing nations. The NAM is in close alignment with this position. Without significant concessions by Brazil, China, India and others, the Doha Round will result in virtually no new benefits for manufacturing in America. We continue to urge Ambassador Kirk and his team to drive this point home to the recalcitrant negotiators in those nations – if they can make commitments equal with their economic size, the entire world will reap the benefits.
The President’s annual Trade Policy Agenda, like the annual Budget, is a chance for the Administration to put forth its philosophical views on how it plans to engage in market liberalization and economic growth. There is much here that, if it can be delivered – and quickly – would create jobs and increase our domestic economic development. The key question is not what the Administration wants to do, it’s how fast the President is willing to do it.