It is no secret that Minnesota is a national leader in innovation, agriculture and manufacturing. With more than a dozen Fortune 500 companies and thousands of small businesses and farms, a key factor in growing Minnesota’s economy is a strong commitment to free-market principles. International trade is playing an increasingly larger role in this.
More than 8,500 businesses in Minnesota export goods abroad, contributing roughly $20 billion to the $1.5 trillion in annual U.S. exports. In 2012, Minnesota ranked as the 20th-largest exporter in the nation, and the fourth-largest agricultural exporter. Not only does our nation depend on goods produced here in Minnesota — global markets do, too.
Despite demand for our goods overseas, foreign barriers to our exports still exist, preventing American businesses from fully thriving. In order to continue an upward trend for our producers and manufacturers, it is incumbent upon government and the private sector to come together and overcome these barriers.
Two important free-trade agreements are currently under negotiation: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
TPP is a proposed free-trade agreement among 12 nations — including Canada, Japan and Australia — that together account for 40 percent of the world’s GDP. Not only does TPP enable the United States to improve relationships with traditional trade partners, it also opens the opportunity to participate in the markets of one of the most economically dynamic regions.
TTIP is a free-trade agreement being negotiated between the United States and the 28 European Union member countries, aimed at reducing tariffs and standardizing regulations between two of the world’s largest economies.
These ongoing negotiations provide an opportunity to overcome foreign barriers to Minnesota exports by allowing us to insert strong and enforceable provisions that eliminate tariff and nontariff barriers in medical device technology, machinery and agricultural products, while also protecting local jobs and improving transparency.
The Constitution vests in Congress the authority to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and it is the executive branch’s duty to faithfully carry out our laws. Therefore, it is vital that Congress and the president work together to ensure that our trade agreements are free and fair to all Americans — including the more than 260,000 Minnesotans who rely on foreign trade and investment to provide for their families.
This is why I took the lead on a letter to President Obama urging him to work with Congress to pass legislation that would provide the administration with trade promotion authority, or TPA.
TPA allows Congress to establish clear objectives for U.S. trade negotiators in order to achieve the best possible outcome for our nation — and our state. Although TPA deflects some authority to the executive branch, Congress would retain control over the approval of free-trade agreements by requiring an up-or-down vote.
Furthermore, TPA strengthens our domestic economy and maintains leverage in foreign affairs by providing certainty to our businesses, workers and trading partners while America remains the engine of global commerce.
Empowering expanding economies and strengthening long-standing relations with trade partners solidifies U.S. influence, enables free enterprise to flourish around the globe, and provides an opportunity for the U.S. to advocate for worker and human rights.
I look forward to working with my constituents, as well as with farmers and businesses across our state, to bring this common-sense, bipartisan message to Washington. It is vital that we pass a successful TPA bill in 2015.
Tom Emmer, a Republican, represents Minnesota’s Sixth District in the U.S. House.