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Expand Trade, Expand the Economy

The following article was originally published in the Houston Chronicle.  Reprinted with permission.

Trade is at the very heart of economic success in Texas.  Every year, Texas companies export hundreds of billions of dollars in goods and services to foreign markets.  In fact, Texas has ranked as the nation's number one exporting state for 12 years in a row.  Trade funnels hundreds of billions of dollars back home to support Texas jobs, families, and our state's much-envied economic might.  But for all of our exporting success in Texas, federal trade policies are holding the whole country back from its economic potential.  It's critical that Congress act quickly to expand our foreign trade if we hope to get our national economy back on track again.

The positive economic impact of trade is undeniable, for Texas and for the United States.  Here in Texas, of our total annual $1.4 trillion Gross State Product, or GSP, more than $250 billion comes from exports.  And these exports don't just come from our many large and multinational businesses.  Millions of Texas small businesses benefit from international trade as well, according to the Small Business Administration.

Unfortunately, Congressional gridlock and political gaming have created one of the biggest roadblocks to expanded trade.  As a result, beneficial trade deals go unrealized.  It's past time for this to change.

For most of the last century, U.S. presidents of both parties have had a key tool to help move trade deals forward: Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which gives the president enhanced, but not unchecked, powers to promote trade.  It allows presidents to set parameters for timing and progression for trade deals – which must be approved by Congress – to be considered, negotiated and passed.

Trade Promotion Authority does not exclude Congress from the process; it simply creates strict rules for how and by when Congress must consider and vote on international trade packages.  The initiative also streamlines the process so that trade deals do not get bogged down or become political footballs in Congress.

Every president from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to George W. Bush had some form of Trade Promotion Authority to use to help expand trade.  And all of these presidents, regardless of political party, were able to use this authority to the benefit of the U.S. economy by opening up new markets to American goods and services, helping U.S. companies compete under fair rules in foreign countries, and generating growth and jobs back home.

It's time for Congress to renew Trade Promotion Authority so Americans can reap the economic benefits of expanded trade opportunities.  Renewing the program has nothing to do with political parties – it's about growing our economy.  Foreign governments need the full confidence that our country can deliver on the deals negotiated in a timely manner and TPA allows for that.

Opportunity is right before us.  In fact, there are major trade deals in the works that could open up massive markets to U.S. goods and services – markets where for decades U.S. companies have fought at a competitive disadvantage.  Given the quality of our goods and services, it is certain that American-made products will thrive in these markets if we give U.S. companies fair access to them.

Given the sad state of our economic recovery, we simply can't afford to pass up current and future trade deals.  With a few exceptions, trade is a nonpartisan issue.  Everyone wants a better economy, good jobs and robust growth here at home.  Without Trade Promotion Authority, achieving those goals will be extremely difficult.  But with the initiative, it's almost inevitable as new markets open up.

Hopefully, our Texas congressional delegation will fight to renew Trade Promotion Authority for Texas families and businesses, and for our country.

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