Froman asks county officials to back Obama trade policies

By Whitney Forman-Cook

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WASHINGTON, Feb. 23, 2015 - U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman today called on county government officials from across the country to support President Obama's request for trade promotion authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal.

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“It's time to update trade promotion legislation to meet the needs of today's global economy and lock into law the progress we have made on a number of issues, including labor and the environment” in the TPP talks, Froman said in an address to the National Associations of Counties (NACo) Legislative Conference. “A bipartisan trade promotion bill will do just that, addressing these changes and empowering America to continue leading on trade.”

Trade promotion authority (TPA), which has been granted to every president since Franklin Roosevelt, would allow a chief executive to negotiate a treaty that Congress could either accept or reject, but not amend. During a visit to Japan last week, House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said he expected a bipartisan TPA bill this spring.

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Froman told the county officials that one of their primary concerns  - the economic well-being of local governments - is linked to small businesses that export.

“Businesses that export are better able to weather economic downturns… (and) 98 percent of our 300,000 exporters are small businesses,” Froman said. The jobs offered by those exporting businesses also pay their employees “on average… up to 18 percent more than… business(es) that don't export,” he said.

The economic opportunities offered by global trade are magnified with agreements like TPP, which includes the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim nation, Froman said. “When completed, this agreement will cover … nearly 40 percent of the global economy. It will grow our exports by more than $123 billion by 2025, according to one estimate, and support many more high-paying jobs.”

For the agriculture sector, passing TPP could translate to fewer trade barriers in countries such as Vietnam, where American-raised poultry is taxed “as high as 40 percent,” he said. Removing those barriers may have a “spillover effect,” like in 2013, when “every dollar in U.S. agriculture exports stimulated another $1.22 in business activity in the U.S. economy,” Froman said.

If TPP is passed, it will be the first update to trade legislation since 2002. 

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