The “mock-markups” of the three pending free trade agreements by the Senate Finance and House Ways & Means Committees today was an important step in the process of passing the agreements. The three agreements will move under Trade Promotion Authority, which protects them from amendment and provides a fast-track process for a quick vote.
The next step, which needs to come as quickly as possible, is for the Obama administration to formally transmit implementing legislation to Congress. This could happen as quickly as next week – and it should. These agreements need to be passed before Congress leaves for August recess.
Already our competitors in Europe and Asia have been signing trade agreements at a startlingly rapid pace, gaining for their manufacturers preferential treatment in key growing markets around the world. U.S. manufacturers are falling behind. We will face higher tariffs and barriers in some of our most promising export markets if we don’t embark on a similar robust trade agenda.
The three FTAs with Colombia, Korea and Panama are a good start – they represent $50 billion in manufactured goods exports now and the U.S. International Trade Commission estimates an additional $12-14 billion in annual exports as a result of the 3 agreements going into force. That means tens of thousands of new manufacturing jobs – in America.
Trade drives exports, and manufacturing is two-thirds of our exports. We have a trade surplus in manufacturing with the 17 nations with which we have trade agreements – over $20 billion last year. That will continue with these three new agreements.
Today’s markups are the start of a process that can be finished in the coming weeks. But they should also be the start of a far broader process of negotiating new trade agreements with all of our key trading partners and with the globe’s fastest-growing economies. Let Colombia, Korea and Panama be the top of a long list, not a footnote to a short one.
Also, here is the link the the coalition letter the NAM along with other business groups sent to the leaders of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committee on the importance of passing these three agreements.
Doug Goudie is director of international trade policy, National Association of Manufacturers.
Update: NAM’s Frank Vargo discusses today’s House and Senate mock markups.