Trade agreements promise more jobs, economic growth

Published 7:00 am Thursday, April 9, 2015

Trade is important to Mississippi’s economy, boosting job creation and expanding access to new markets.
Last year, our state produced $11.4 billion in exports, contributing to record-setting levels for the United States overall. According to the International Trade Administration, a sizable portion of these goods went to countries seeking to participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive trade agreement still under negotiation.
Democrats Obstruct Key Trade Legislation
Congress has an opportunity to help these negotiations with legislation that would fast-track trade agreements, also known as trade promotion authority (TPA). Under TPA, lawmakers would be able to set clear objectives for a trade deal and approve or reject the final agreement. Streamlining the approval process would also strengthen the United States’ hand at the negotiating table as it works to ensure fair and high standards from other TPP countries.
Republicans and the White House have found common ground on trade policy, but some Democrats continue to obstruct TPA legislation, despite its impact on our country’s economic security. Some of the world’s fasting-growing economies would be part of the TPP. Moreover, 95 percent of all consumers live outside of the United States. Trade agreements with countries in Asia and the Pacific, as well as the European Union, would help U.S. workers and businesses stay competitive, offering a level playing field for “Made in America” goods.
Mississippians Depend on Trade-Related Jobs
A pro-growth approach to trade would also support millions of high-paying jobs here at home. According to the Business Roundtable, an association of leaders from some of America’s top companies, more than 335,000 jobs in Mississippi depend on international trade. Additionally, a vast majority of our state’s exporters are small- to medium-size businesses – the primary drivers of job creation.
Modern Ports Play Vital Role in Commerce
In addition to TPA, there are other important ways to promote trade. Maintaining infrastructure for the smooth and efficient transit of goods is integral to America’s competitiveness in global markets. Our ports are especially critical as gateways to these markets. Last year’s passage of a new “Water Resources Development Act (WRDA)” was a significant advancement in assisting ports with dredging needs. Many of America’s ports are in desperate need of maintenance and therefore severely underutilized. Even the busiest ports are able to operate at full capacity less than 35 percent of the time.
The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund was established for port improvements, and WRDA increases the amount of these funds available for needed dredging. My amendment to the recent Senate budget resolution reiterated the importance of using Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund revenues for their intended purpose. Without proper navigation channels, vessels with U.S. goods cannot get to market, driving up costs. As we saw with recent labor disputes on the West Coast, port disruptions can cost billions of dollars and threaten tens of thousands of jobs.
With so many benefits at stake – from higher wages to more affordable goods – trade opportunities should not be missed.
America’s future prosperity depends on keeping commerce vibrant and upholding our proud reputation as the best place in the world to do business.

By Senator Roger Wicker

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