Today, U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), member of the Senate Finance Committee, took to the Senate floor to call on Senate Democrats to support trade promotion authority (TPA) to put American goods on an even playing field internationally. Thune noted the tremendous impact of trade on South Dakota’s agriculture industry, and mentioned the timeliness of the discussion particularly on today, National Agriculture Day.
Below is the video and transcript of Thune’s remarks.
“Mr. President, if there’s one thing Americans have made clear, it’s that they want their leaders to do something about the economy.
“The recession may have officially ended almost six years ago, but millions of Americans are still struggling economically, and opportunities are still few and far between.
“One big thing we can do to help the economy and expand opportunities for American workers is pass trade promotion authority, or TPA.
“Our prior trade agreements have been a boon to the economy, providing American workers with jobs and American farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers with new markets for their goods.
“In my home state of South Dakota, 74 percent of exports go to countries with which the U.S. has a free trade agreement.
“Between 2005 and 2014, South Dakota saw a 110 percent increase in exports to free trade agreement countries.
“That’s been a huge benefit to South Dakota farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers.
“Speaking of farmers and trade, today is National Agriculture Day, and I’d just like to add as an aside that the substantial agriculture trade surplus the United States currently enjoys is a tribute to the efficiency and productivity of U.S. farmers and ranchers.
“I salute the U.S. farmers, ranchers, and agribusinesses who provide America – and the world – with a safe and abundant food supply.
“Passing trade promotion authority is one way we can ensure an even greater global expansion of U.S. agricultural trade.
“Mr. President, currently the administration is in the process of negotiating two new trade agreements that would open vast new markets for American products and put American goods on a level playing field internationally.
“The first of these agreements, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, is being negotiated with a number of Asia-Pacific nations including Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, and Vietnam.
“Currently, American goods face heavy tariffs in many of these countries, at times as high as 85 percent.
“Tariffs of that size put American goods at an incredible disadvantage compared to their foreign competitors.
“Tariffs provide a powerful disincentive for citizens in other nations to purchase American products.
“Removing this disincentive would increase foreign demand for U.S. products, which would mean more business for U.S. farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers, and more jobs and opportunities for American workers.
“That’s why negotiating the strongest possible Trans-Pacific trade agreement, as well as the agreement the United States is negotiating with the European Union, must be a priority.
“And for that we need trade promotion authority.
“Trade promotion authority has been the means by which nearly every U.S. free trade agreement has been negotiated.
“The idea behind TPA is simple.
“Congress sets the negotiating priorities the administration must follow and requires the administration to consult with Congress during the negotiating process.
“In return, Congress promises a simple up-or-down vote on the final agreement, instead of a lengthy amendment process that could leave the final agreement looking nothing like the deal the administration negotiated.
“The promise of that up-or-down vote on the final agreement is the key.
“That’s what gives our trading partners the confidence they need to put their best offers on the table, which allows for a successful conclusion of negotiations.
“Trade promotion authority demonstrates that Congress and the administration are on the same page when it comes to the content of trade agreements and that the final agreement will be either accepted or rejected, not amended beyond recognition.
“Mr. President, trade promotion authority expired in 2007, and Republicans have been pushing for renewing it ever since.
“The president is also on board, and he called for trade promotion authority in this year’s State of the Union address.
“This is an excellent chance for Democrats and Republicans to accomplish something significant for the American people and show that Washington is working again.
“Unfortunately, while the president and Republicans are united on this issue, many Senate Democrats continue to oppose this legislation.
“The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee is currently engaged in negotiations on a TPA bill with the committee’s ranking member, the senior senator from Oregon.
“We’re hopeful that these efforts will yield legislation that both Republicans and Democrats will support.
“Republicans are very open to suggestions and improvements.
“In fact, I expect a final agreement will include many elements advocated by the senior senator from Oregon and other Senate Democrats, such as greater transparency surrounding trade negotiations.
“However, the one thing Republicans can’t support is an attempt to undermine the core of TPA: that guaranteed up-or-down vote that gives other countries the confidence to put forward their best offers in trade negotiations.
“Simply put, we can’t afford to weaken TPA.
“Mr. President, if we fail to pass TPA, which will likely spell the failure of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the U.S.-EU trade agreement, we won’t be maintaining the status quo.
“Just because we’re not negotiating agreements doesn’t mean other countries won’t be.
“Other countries will secure favorable treatment of their goods, and American goods will fall further and further behind.
“That’s not something we can afford in this economy.
“If we pass TPA, on the other hand, that will allow the Trans-Pacific trade agreement and the U.S.-EU trade agreement to move forward, which means American producers will benefit from new markets for their goods, and American workers will benefit from new jobs and opportunities.
“Since 2009, exports have accounted for more than 1 million new jobs here in the United States.
“If we pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the U.S.-EU trade agreement, we could be looking at more than a million more over the next few years.
“It’s time to pass TPA, get these agreements concluded, and let American workers and businesses start experiencing the benefits.”