Manufacturers and their workers across America depend on global commerce to grow U.S. production, provide innovative and high-value products to consumers at home and abroad and create well-paying jobs at home. Consider that nearly half of U.S. manufacturing production is exported and about six million manufacturing workers depend on U.S. manufactured goods exports for their jobs.
With international trade so important to health and growth of the U.S. manufacturing sector, it is no surprise that manufacturers have long relied on and been at the forefront of promoting a strong, respected and fair rules-based global trading system. Under the current system, embodied by the Geneva-based World Trade Organization, manufacturers in the United States have benefited broadly from the substantial reduction in tariffs and many other trade barriers in markets big and small around the world, as well as through the adoption and enforcement of stronger and fairer standards than existed before WTO was established in 1995.
Yet, the rules-based system is now at a crossroads. It has failed to deliver broad-based trade liberalization in more than 25 years, except in a few sectors, leaving substantial tariffs and other barriers in place. It has failed to update rules in important areas that are critical to a fair and fully-functioning global trading system, including on digital trade, state-led competition and other issues. Too often, countries ignore WTO requirements small and big and the dispute settlement system is overloaded and subject to serious levels of concern in the United States and elsewhere.
Manufacturers in the United States need a fully-functioning, trade-liberalizing WTO that is respected by all of its 164 members. That is why, this week, National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons and I are in Geneva to meet with senior WTO officials. During our meetings, we will focus on the need for WTO reform and modernization across a number of critical areas, including negotiations, dispute settlement and full implementation of existing WTO commitments.
It is also critical that the WTO serve as the central voice on trade policy issues and that it proactively engages with other organizations like the World Health Organization to prevent trade-harmful policy recommendations. The NAM formed the Engaging America’s Global Leadership (EAGL) Coalition to address just such issues.
There can be no question that the WTO system is in need of reform. Manufacturers are committed to being allies in that reform process. The NAM looks forward to working with stakeholders around the world on a constructive WTO modernization agenda to strengthen the WTO as an effective rules-based system that is respected by its members, provides appropriate and strong enforcement of its rules and moves forward trade liberalization broadly.