Like most Americans, I’m frustrated with the slow rate of U.S. economic growth over the last several years.
Most plans to fix the problem focus on domestic issues — government spending, taxes and infrastructure projects, to name a few.
As the chairman and CEO of Caterpillar Inc., I particularly like to talk about the need to invest in infrastructure, which helps to make America more competitive in the world economy.
But while all these issues are vital to the U.S. economy, the opportunity to increase U.S. investment, growth and jobs requires us to go beyond America’s borders.
Ninety-six percent of the world’s consumers live outside of the United States. In fact, in the last five years, Caterpillar has exported more than $82 billion in products manufactured at our factories in the United States, supporting tens of thousands of jobs. Creating opportunities for American companies to reach these consumers through new and expanded free-trade agreements can help get our economy back on track and keep our nation globally competitive.
Today, trade supports more than 1 in 5 American jobs. U.S. exports have grown more than twice as fast as GDP since 2002, accounting for 14 percent of GDP in 2012. And workers in U.S. companies that export goods earn on average up to 18 percent more than those in similar jobs in nonexporting companies.
The U.S. is pursuing one of the most ambitious trade agendas in a generation, including agreements that will open markets in the Asia-Pacific region and Europe.
Also being negotiated is an agreement aimed at knocking down barriers to boost the global competitiveness of U.S. service companies. But to realize the economic benefits of these pending trade deals, Congress must update and pass trade-promotion authority legislation.
A partnership between Congress and the Obama administration, TPA legislation helps shape a strategic vision for U.S. trade policy and the goals the nation wants to accomplish in negotiations.
It provides a framework for Congress and the president to work to craft that vision, and it helps define the critical constitutional relationship between Congress and the president with respect to foreign commerce.
From the 1930s until 2007, Congress authorized every president to pursue trade agreements that opened markets for U.S. goods and services. Such authority was last passed by Congress in 2002, and expired in 2007.
Updated TPA legislation will provide clear guidance on Congress’ requirements for trade agreements. It will also provide our trade negotiating partners with a degree of comfort that the U.S. is committed to the international trade negotiating process and the agreements we negotiate.
In the coming weeks, Congress will likely introduce updated TPA legislation. Congress should seize the opportunity to shore up the benefits of current and future trade agreements by passing updated TPA legislation.
Working with the president to do so will ensure that the United States continues to pursue agreements that will not only allow companies like Caterpillar to remain globally competitive, but will also benefit America.