Congresswoman Noem’s Weekly Column: More Trade Can Bring Opportunity and Peace

More Trade Can Bring Opportunity and Peace
By Rep. Kristi Noem
March 13, 2015

kristi noem headshot May 21 2014When a bill is signed, lawmakers aren’t signing a paycheck.  Instead, we are creating an environment where if you work hard and play by the rules, you can get ahead.  Those principles are important to remember – especially as we work toward finalizing trade agreements in the next few years.

We’re closest to finishing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – a trade agreement with allies in the Asia-Pacific.  If completed, we will unlock opportunities for South Dakota job creators, ag producers, and consumers while building a healthy economy.

Today, 75 percent of South Dakota exporters are small and medium-sized businesses.  Trade agreements reduce barriers so businesses can get their products and services to more consumers.  Such agreements also give small businesses tools they don’t currently have access to in order to fight against foreign entities that may be stealing their information or technology.

For farmers and ranchers, trade agreements open new markets.  We grow more than we can sell here at home.  There’s no reason not to take advantage of that abundance – especially as nearly 96 percent of consumers are outside the U.S.

It’s not just about benefits to business, however.  The high U.S. tariffs on shoes and clothing are one of our most regressive taxes, costing Americans billions of dollars every year. With a trade agreement, we can lower that tax on consumers.

The national security benefits of open trade cannot be underestimated either – especially in an increasingly powerful region, like the Asia-Pacific.  In the first 10 years of this century, East Asian countries negotiated 48 trade agreements while the United States negotiated just two in the region.  China has been filling the vacuum, using its ever-increasing commercial ties to assert its growing power. That creates a dangerous environment for the U.S. and for South Dakota.

The best course forward for TPP would be for Congress to pass a bill establishing Trade Promotion Authority, or TPA.

Having TPA in place will help us get the strongest deal for South Dakota, because through it, we’re showing our trading partners that we’re serious, incentivizing them to put their best offers forward.

If TPA is established – and it has been for every president since FDR – Congress is telling the administration:  If a trade agreement is to get the privilege of an up-or-down vote in Congress, you must follow our rules and instructions, keep us in the loop, and remember that we have the last say.  What it does not do is give any authority to the President.  Congress sets the priorities and negotiating parameters – not the White House.  If this administration violates those parameters, Congress can revoke TPA.  Moreover, if he follows the parameters and we still don’t like the agreement, Congress has the power to vote it down.

Congress is expected to consider TPA in the coming weeks.  In the House, it will first see action in the Ways and Means Committee, of which I am a member.

With TPA, we can then move thoughtfully to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade agreements.  I’ll be fighting for agreements that are rooted in fair and conservative economic principles, protect South Dakota interests, and bolster national security, because as President Ronald Reagan said, “The freer the flow of world trade, the stronger the tides of human progress and peace among nations.”