Coalition Guest Commentary - Rep. Kevin Brady: Trade is Critical to U.S. Economy

When President Obama touched down in Pittsburgh for the G-20 Summit last week, he had the chance to lead on trade policies that will level the playing field for American workers and small businesses.

Trade is critical to U.S. economic growth and vital to global economic development. Trade - especially exports - has been the one bright spot in our economy over recent years, accounting at one point for nearly 60 percent of our economic growth. Forty-two percent of American jobs depend on trade, and exports account for one in every eight dollars earned by Americans last year. Yet in the midst of this severe economic downturn, U.S. exports have declined by 20 percent - marking the worst decline in U.S. exports since World War II.

Unfortunately, President Obama has not focused on reversing this dangerous trend. Instead of moving forward on a strategy to open markets abroad to U.S.-made products, the Administration has indefinitely delayed laying out a trade agenda and has filled the void with isolationist measures. Earlier this year, the Administration and the Democrat Majority pulled the plug on a pilot program for Mexican commercial trucks without improving highway safety - causing the United States to violate our commitments and subjecting American exporters to $2.4 billion in retaliatory tariffs. Most recently, the White House announced that it will impose a union-supported 35 percent tax on Chinese tires without support from a single U.S. tire manufacturer. The impact of the new "tire tax," effective this Saturday, will likely fall hardest on struggling American families that must now pay more for a necessity in life - with no assurance any more U.S. jobs will be created as a result. The Buy American provisions in the "stimulus" bill are contracting trade, restricting job opportunities for Americans, and clogging, rather than priming, U.S. economic recovery.

For American companies to grow and be competitive, we need to "Sell American." President Obama can start by asking Congress to move the pending trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. These agreements, which represent an immediate boost to U.S. exports, have been stalled for more than two years. And the cost of inaction only hurts American companies as other countries move into those markets, blocking U.S. access. Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee recently released analysis (see this report here), detailing this cost to our key export sectors as the European Union forges ahead with trade agreements with South Korea and Colombia, and Canada moves toward an agreement with Colombia.

There is no one solution to our current economic woes, but it is clear that trade is a critical part of the solution. By increasing trade flows, we can speed the global economic recovery and create a stronger U.S. economy. President Obama can continue to sit on the sidelines of the global trade dialogue, or he can lead, starting today, and help American businesses, families, and workers thrive across our great country.

Congressman Kevin Brady represents the 8th Congressional District of Texas, and is the Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Ranking Member.


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