May 22, 2014 at 1:00 am

The trade reform we need

Camp (Courtesy: U.S. Congress)

Far too many families in Michigan and across the country are still struggling in this economy. Workers haven’t seen a pay raise in years and they are being forced to pay more for their healthcare. Worse yet, many have lost hope and stopped looking for a job. We’ve already lost a decade. Before we lose a generation, Washington must focus on policies that strengthen the economy and help hardworking taxpayers. Our U.S. trade agenda can do just that. International trade already supports over 38 million jobs, and over 1.1 million jobs in Michigan. These jobs also pay well — 15-20 percent more than other jobs, on average.

The success of American workers, businesses and farmers is directly linked to expanding the customers we sell to and service. We have enjoyed success from our previous trade agreements, including our most recent ones with Colombia, Korea and Panama. In the past 10 years, Michigan’s agriculture exports have increased 13 percent. However, we cannot stop there. We must continue to open new markets across the globe for American-made goods and services. Failure to pursue new agreements means that American businesses, manufacturers and farmers will lose out to foreign competitors.

We are currently engaged in several important negotiations. On a recent congressional trip I took with Speaker John Boehner and other members of Congress, I talked with European officials in Portugal about the importance of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that we are negotiating with the European Union.

This agreement is a much-needed opportunity to open the important European market to U.S. exports. We now send more than $730 million in goods each day to European countries. Eliminating tariffs could boost U.S. exports to the EU by 17 percent, which will lead to more jobs and higher paychecks here at home.

In addition to creating economic growth, the agreement will strengthen the alliance between the United States and the European Union. TTIP will strengthen an already strong partnership with Europe and will serve as a model for partnership, trade, and democracy for neighbors in Eastern Europe and beyond. The impact of the TTIP negotiations stretches beyond EU by acting as an important diplomatic counterbalance to Russia’s aggressions in the region. It sends a powerful message of support to our NATO allies and others who support for free trade, the rule of law, and international markets.

TTIP is not the only agreement being negotiated that will open new markets for U.S. job creators. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), includes 12 countries in Asia and the Pacific region. It is critical we ensure that TPP is a high-standard agreement that creates meaningful market access for U.S. exporters, particularly in Japan and Canada. If TPP achieves this high standard, it will give us access to millions of new customers for the top-quality agriculture and manufacturing products that come from the state of Michigan.

To negotiate the best agreements possible and to make them a reality, we must pass trade promotion authority legislation. That’s why, this January, I introduced H.R. 3830, the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act, so we can unlock the benefits these agreements will bring the United States.

Through TPA, Congress sets its priorities for trade agreements and directs the Administration on how to achieve them. The bipartisan legislation I introduced earlier this year with the Senate establishes specific rules for how the Administration must consult with the public. We’ve made considerable progress in building support for this bill, but we need the Administration to step up and work with us as well so we can move these agreements forward.

We need to get serious about creating opportunities that foster economic growth. We have a lot of work ahead of us to pass TPA and move important agreements to completion.

Working together, Congress and the administration can seize these opportunities, create meaningful U.S. jobs, and help our country prosper once again.

U.S. Rep. Dave Camp, R-Midland, represents Michigan’s 4th District and chairs the Ways and Means Committee.