Why the Trans-Pacific Partnership would be a bad trade deal for Pennsylvanians
Trade is good.
I trade with my grocer so I don’t have to grow my own food. He trades with refrigeration companies so he doesn’t have to build coolers. We all trade with the electric utility for power. Trade is the fundamental mechanism that allows us to specialize, innovate and buy and sell the best possible goods and services at the lowest cost to the greatest number of people.
We Pennsylvanians sell our college educational services to Michiganders, and we buy their cars. We sell our apples to Floridians and buy their orange juice. We sell medical devices to Louisianans and buy the gasoline they distill from oil they buy from Texas. And so on. Our economy would shrink massively and our standard of living would plummet if we consumed only our own states’ products and sold them only to our residents.
The same goes for national borders. Just as Pennsylvanians benefit from trading with Californians, we benefit from trading with British, Japanese and Italians. As individuals, we buy products from these countries when it’s a good deal for us. As workers, we sell our goods and services to the 96 percent of the world’s population that lives outside the USA.
In Pennsylvania, international trade accounts for nearly 200,000 jobs in our farming, manufacturing, and services sectors. Trade is often demonized, but if international trade ceased, consumer choices would decrease, prices would rise and those 200,000 jobs could be lost. That would be a disaster for all of us, especially middle- and lower-income families.
That is not to say that everyone benefits equally from trade. The Peterson Institute for International Economics estimates that existing trade deals save the average U.S. household about $10,000 a year. And many Pennsylvanians have good jobs that depend on exports. But some of our neighbors have lost their jobs to foreign competitors. Just as modern technology and automation have eliminated some jobs, trade has cost us jobs that once supported and sustained working families.
That is why I have long supported programs to soften the blow to these workers, including government-funded training programs to help displaced workers learn new skills in a changing economy. Most important, we need strong economic growth to create job opportunities for these displaced workers. That’s also why it’s so important to get our trade agreements right.
We need balanced agreements that allow consumers to save and producers to grow. We need trade agreements that open new markets, create job opportunities and prevent unscrupulous competitors from stealing our products and ideas.
Throughout my time in public life, I have supported many trade agreements that have benefited Pennsylvania families and workers because they met these essential tests.
But when countries like China and South Korea have used abusive or illegal trade practices, such as intellectual property theft and steel dumping, I have strongly opposed them. And I have led efforts to end the fleecing of American taxpayers that happens when our government unfairly subsidizes big corporations to boost their foreign sales.
Every trade agreement must be studied on its own merits. Some are good, some are bad. I have carefully analyzed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed trade agreement between America and numerous Asian and Pacific countries.
TPP is supposed to give our country the chance to write the rules for global trade, instead of letting China do it. That is a laudable goal, and some of its provisions would open new markets for some of our state’s farmers and other industries.
However, having the right goal is not good enough. It also has to be a good deal, and good deals require good negotiations. In the TPP, the Obama administration has not gotten a good enough deal for Pennsylvania workers.
The TPP falls short in several areas. Take just two examples, both of which I have stressed to the Obama administration.
About 46,000 Pennsylvanians have jobs in the life science and pharmaceutical sector, making it one of our state’s largest industries. TPP will make it too easy for other countries to steal innovations that we create in Pennsylvania and take the jobs tied to those innovations.
Pennsylvania’s largest agricultural product is dairy, with about 7,000 dairy farms in the commonwealth. This sector depends heavily on exports, which means it’s critically important that trade agreements open foreign markets to our goods. Unfortunately, TPP has failed to do this meaningfully, particularly with respect to the protectionist Canadian market.
I have brought these and other problems to the attention of the Obama trade negotiators, but regrettably, they have failed to address them. As it now stands, TPP is not a good deal for Pennsylvania. I cannot support it.
A good trade deal can open up new markets across the globe and help turn around our weak economy. We must not abandon trade. Politicians in both parties who demagogue trade do a disservice to our people, playing on their economic fears, instead of promoting their economic well-being. But we should not pass a flawed deal just to get a deal done. We should dump the TPP and return to the negotiating table to get an agreement that would create jobs and economic growth here at home.
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey is a Republican from Pennsylvania.
Originally Published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette