A victory celebration and a wake for free trade

Hanjin container ship sailing on San Francisco Bay

Article Highlights

  • We can celebrate the trade liberalization #TPA brought about, but its existence was too short

    Tweet This

  • Votes in both the #House and #Senate demonstrate the clear bi-partisan support for trade liberalization

    Tweet This

  • If President #Obama is serious about the merits of free trade, he will call for renewal of #TPA

    Tweet This

Three important and long overdue free trade agreements (FTAs) passed Congress last week and are now headed to the White House for President Obama's signature. These bills, which establish FTAs with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea, were signed under the auspices of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), legislation enacted in 2002 to empower the president to negotiate trade agreements, with Congress then fast-tracking consideration of the enacting legislation.

"We can celebrate the trade liberalization TPA brought about, but its existence was too short." -- Alex Brill

The three agreements were negotiated under President Bush before TPA expired in 2007. Collectively, these new agreements will increase U.S. exports by over $12 billion a year. Negotiations for the largest of the three, the pact with Korea, were led by then-U.S. Trade Representative and current U.S. Senator Rob Portman.

The agreement with Korea is the largest FTA since NAFTA, as Korea is our seventh-largest trading partner, and achievements embodied in that agreement will eliminate tariffs on 95 percent of U.S. exports to Korea within five years.

But the victory celebration for these three agreements is also a wake of sorts. Eleven FTAs with seventeen countries are now in effect. Each bill garnered bipartisan support, and each bill reduced trade barriers. While some agreements were quite small and served more strategic than economic purposes, all have been valuable steps toward more U.S. exports, increased competitiveness of U.S. firms, and more choices for U.S. consumers.

But, TPA has expired. No future FTAs will enjoy expedited consideration in Congress without its renewal. In short, the era of trade liberalization may have ended with the enactment of these three bills.

We can celebrate the trade liberalization TPA brought about, but its existence was too short.

President Obama indicated his seriousness about exports when he committed to double them by 2015, but he has given conflicting signals about his commitment to trade liberalization. While the administration has praised the passage of the FTAs with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea, the president waited far too long to submit the legislation to Congress. Votes in both the House and Senate demonstrate the clear bi-partisan support for trade liberalization, and the administration's own analysis indicates that the agreements will support 250,000 US jobs. Given the exhaustive rhetoric in Washington and singular focus on "job legislation," the delay is truly curious.

It won't be long before the three new agreements are in force, barriers to trade are reduced, and U.S. producers and U.S. consumers begin to reap the benefits. If President Obama is serious about the merits of free trade, he will call for renewal of TPA. But the president's dithering on these three recent FTAs does not bode well for any additional action on trade liberalization, at least not in this administration.

Alex Brill is a research fellow at AEI.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Alex
Brill

What's new on AEI

Love people, not pleasure
image Oval Office lacks resolve on Ukraine
image Middle East Morass: A public opinion rundown of Iraq, Iran, and more
image Verizon's Inspire Her Mind ad and the facts they didn't tell you
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
    MON
  • 22
    TUE
  • 23
    WED
  • 24
    THU
  • 25
    FRI
Monday, July 21, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Closing the gaps in health outcomes: Alternative paths forward

Please join us for a broader exploration of targeted interventions that provide real promise for reducing health disparities, limiting or delaying the onset of chronic health conditions, and improving the performance of the US health care system.

Monday, July 21, 2014 | 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Comprehending comprehensive universities

Join us for a panel discussion that seeks to comprehend the comprehensives and to determine the role these schools play in the nation’s college completion agenda.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 | 8:50 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Who governs the Internet? A conversation on securing the multistakeholder process

Please join AEI’s Center for Internet, Communications, and Technology Policy for a conference to address key steps we can take, as members of the global community, to maintain a free Internet.

Event Registration is Closed
Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Expanding opportunity in America: A conversation with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan

Please join us as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveils a new set of policy reforms aimed at reducing poverty and increasing upward mobility throughout America.

Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 6:00 p.m. – 7:15 p.m.
Is it time to end the Export-Import Bank?

We welcome you to join us at AEI as POLITICO’s Ben White moderates a lively debate between Tim Carney, one of the bank’s fiercest critics, and Tony Fratto, one of the agency’s staunchest defenders.

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.