Pete Sessions: Fast-track bill is an important step forward

Bush logoBy Pete Sessions

CHANGING_WORKFORCE_40732429As a strong believer in American exceptionalism, I know that when America competes across the globe, America wins. That is why I was proud to work closely with U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to introduce the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015, more commonly known as trade promotion authority (TPA).

TPA is a vital part of House Republicans’ free-trade agenda because it is the key legislative component to securing trade agreements that grow the economy, create good-paying jobs and lower prices for American consumers. It is based on simple constitutional principles: that Congress and the White House must work together on trade policy and that trade agreements cannot change U.S. law without an up-or-down vote by Congress.

This legislation represents an important step forward as we negotiate agreements to lower and eliminate trade barriers that keep U.S. exports from being sold around the globe. By creating a more level playing field, trade agreements help U.S. companies and workers compete for the 95 percent of the world’s customers who live outside America’s borders.

Trade also lowers tariffs on U.S. consumers, which means lower prices for American families. Trade agreements have increased the purchasing power of an average American family of four by $10,000, which means more money goes into the pockets of Americans instead of the pockets of foreign governments.

Our home state of Texas benefits from increased trade more than any other. Last year, Texas led the nation in exports for the 13th year in a row, with $289 billion worth of exported goods. In 2012, more than 8,000 companies exported goods from the Dallas area. Nearly 90 percent of those companies were small businesses.

UTAustin_logoTrade supported 1.1 million jobs in our state alone in 2014. Trade-related jobs are good-paying jobs. In fact, trade-related jobs pay, on average, 18 percent more than jobs that are not related to trade.

Trade agreements also are vital for our national security at a time when stability is desperately needed. They also help ensure a global order that reflects American values instead of the priorities of China or Russia.

Without TPA, good trade agreements are not possible, and without good trade agreements, America’s businesses and workers are left behind. The global economy will grow and trade will expand with or without us. We need to be not just a part of that growth, but to lead it.

Every president since 1974 has had TPA because it empowers Congress’ role in negotiations. Without it, the administration would be free to negotiate trade agreements without guidelines or accountability. TPA also requires high levels of transparency and consultation between the administration and Congress to ensure that the administration is getting the best deal for the American people. In return, Congress promises not to alter that agreement once it is finalized, but only if the administration follows the guidelines laid out by Congress in TPA.

Finally, TPA requires that the American people and the members of Congress who represent them have time to read and understand each trade agreement before it receives a vote.

I am a strong believer in free trade, but if TPA were a blank check for the president, I could not support it. This president has proven himself to be untrustworthy time and time again. That is why TPA takes strong steps to empower Congress and the American people and to reinforce our Founding Fathers’ system of checks and balances as we consider expanding our global trade presence.

This legislation is the best way forward for trade agreements that are good for American families, American workers, job creators and our national security, and I look forward to debating it vigorously soon.

Pete Sessions , R-Dallas, represents the 32nd District in the U.S. House. Reach him through sessions.house.gov.

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