By Drew Johnson, Senior fellow at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance
News about the economy just went from bad to worse. The Commerce Department released new figures showing gross domestic product fell 2.9 percent in the first quarter of 2014 and corporate profits plummeted more than 9 percent from last year's numbers.
It seems that the U.S. economic engine is still meekly sputtering, thanks in large part to poor decisions made by President Obama and members of Congress.
It seems anytime Washington gets involved at trying to spur the economy, things seem to go to hell in a handbasket.
But Congress actually can do one thing that would grow exports, expand GDP, fuel job creation and spark the American economy: Pass a modernized Trade Promotion Authority.
From Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush, U.S. presidents have enjoyed the authority to work with Congress to fast track trade agreements that would benefit the economy and American workers. The authority has always defined U.S. trade goals and created a positive and timely framework for Congress and the White House to deal with trade pacts. The modern form of Trade Promotion Authority was established in 1974 and renewed regularly until it was allowed to lapse in 2007.
Specifically, Trade Promotion Authority permits members of Congress to outline the goals they want the president to pursue in trade negotiations. The president is then required to consult with Congress as the negotiations unfold. Congress then agrees to vote up or down on trade deals without amendments within a set time period. As a result, the authority has succeeded in keeping trade agreements moving quickly through even the most divided Congresses.
The authority doesn't let the president impose his will unilaterally, something few Americans would want, given Obama's record on the economy and foreign policy. Congress is empowered to determine the framework for a trade agreement, shapes it as it's being made and retains the right to reject the final product. The authority assures our negotiators and their counterparts from other nations that Congress will vote on the agreement as negotiated and won't try to change it through amendments.
Trying to grow America's economy internally is a laudable goal, but it simply isn't enough. More than 80 percent of the world's purchasing power, 92 percent of its economic growth and 95 percent of its consumers live outside the United States. In order for American businesses – and workers – to thrive, we must encourage free trade throughout the world.
Unfortunately, countries across the globe are blocking U.S. goods and services because trade agreements are needed. Current trade deals are languishing and negotiations regarding future pacts are bogged down because there is no Trade Promotion Authority in place. American businesses, workers and families are paying the price.
Making it easier and faster for American negotiators to draw up tough and fair trade agreements that open those markets to American products is a foolproof way to quickly and dramatically kick start the U.S. economy.
Nearly 40 million American jobs depend on exports and imports. Such jobs typically pay 15 percent to 20 percent above the national average. Trade Promotion Authority would create even more of these quality jobs for hard working Americans.
The additional free trade agreements spurred by a new Trade Promotion Authority would allow American firms to import certain foreign goods, such as raw materials, basic components and machinery that could be used to lower production costs, slash prices and become even more competitive in the global market.
With the economy struggling to stay afloat and American workers still in dire need of stable, well-paying jobs, now, more than ever, the U.S. must harness the power of international trade. That means lawmakers must take the steps necessary to promote fair access for American goods and services in as foreign markets as possible, as quickly as possible. That's why Congress needs to pass Trade Promotion Authority.
Drew Johnson is a senior fellow at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, a nonpartisan, nonprofit educational organization dedicated to a smaller, more responsible government.