The U.S. economy has slumped to its lowest levels in years. And as we are well aware, when the national economy slows, our region usually feels the consequences earlier, more severely, and for a longer period of time.

In challenging economic times like this, it’s important to promote policies that work — and exports work. In the 1990s, as much as one-third of U.S. economic growth was derived from our ability to sell our goods and services abroad.

And today, one in 10 jobs relies on trade, and these jobs pay 13 to 18 percent more than the average wage. What’s more, twelve million American workers and their families rely on trade-related jobs for their incomes.

But the ability of local companies to export is growing weak. Trade barriers erected by other nations are freezing our goods and services out.

The problem: our trade negotiators lack Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). TPA guarantees to our trading partners that Congress will vote “up or down” on a trade agreement within a given period of time. This authority, which has been used by each President since Richard Nixon, expired in 1994.

Without TPA, foreign governments are reluctant to make agreements and concessions that could be changed later by Congress. As a result, the United States is not able to negotiate new trade agreements that eliminate foreign trade barriers.

Consequently, we have fallen dangerously behind other trading nations. Our competitors are negotiating an ever-growing web of preferential trade and investment arrangements that exclude American products and services.

Consider this:

  • Of the more than 130 regional trade agreements in force today, only two include the United States.
  • Mexico has trade deals with at least 28 countries, and is working on agreements with South America and Japan.
  • The European Union has trade agreements with 27 countries, and is actively negotiating another 15.

U.S. companies, workers, and farmers pay a high price for our inaction on TPA. Compared to other nations, U.S. exporters often face higher foreign duties, greater barriers to services and investment, and higher roadblocks in obtaining regulatory and standards approvals.

We can’t compete under this kind of financial handicap, while other countries negotiate trade deals for the benefit of their own farmers and workers.

This is no time to isolate America from new opportunities, slamming the door on markets that could renew our growth. Today, 96 percent of the world’s consumers live outside our borders. Since our domestic markets are mature, we must sell more goods and services to foreign markets.

Fortunately, the answer is clear: growth requires trade, and trade requires TPA. Our farmers and workers can compete and win in world markets, but only if Congress gets us back on a level playing field.

I urge our Upstate New York Members of Congress to pass TPA.

This article appeared in The Saratogian, November 8, 2001.

John Manzella
About The Author John Manzella [Full Bio]
John Manzella, founder of the, is a world-recognized speaker, author of several books, and a nationally syndicated columnist on global business, trade policy, and economic trends. His latest book is Global America: Understanding Global and Economic Trends and How To Ensure Competitiveness.

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