Fast-track will help Ky., U.S. compete

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It’s no coincidence that the House Manufacturing Caucus is one of the largest, most bipartisan groups in Congress. With nearly 100 members, representing districts both rural and urban, the caucus’ mission is to help U.S. manufacturers

CES on the Hillcompete fairly with foreign rivals. Congressional action could further advance important trade deals that would grow U.S. exports and create both jobs and wealth for American workers.

Trade sustains and supports more than 40 million U.S. jobs. Today, 95 percent of the world’s population lives outside the United States, and more than 80 percent of the world’s purchasing power resides with consumers abroad. To truly compete and thrive in the 21st century, American business and workers have to succeed in the global marketplace.

The expansion of the global supply chain and growth of the digital economy mean small- and medium-sized businesses in the United States now have an opportunity to reach a global audience – provided we have fair and open trade agreements. We need new trade agreements in place that give U.S. companies unfettered access to the global marketplace.

When I served as CEO of NuVo Technologies, for years one of the top 30 high-growth companies in Northern Kentucky, I was stunned by policies that limited our ability to sell our products internationally. Brazil, for example, represented one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. However, our whole-home audio system had very low sales in Brazil. With an import duty of 45 percent, our products could not compete against Brazil’s home-grown products.

Our Brazilian distributor, which we later learned developed and manufactured a substitute for our technology for the Brazilian market, is now seeking entry into the U.S. marketplace. Brazil’s restrictions not only blocked our access to Brazilian consumers, they also enabled a foreign firm to ultimately compete with us here in the United States.

Increased global sales would have brought more profitability for our company, based in Hebron, which would have meant more tax revenue for state and federal coffers, and more resources to invest in research and development and high-paying jobs. In fact, Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, notes that every $1 billion in exports creates more than 50,000 jobs. Be it on farms or in factories, trade not only creates jobs but also supports higher wages and drives economic growth.

Underscoring the importance of accessing foreign markets, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker recently noted that U.S. exports to free-market partner countries rose more than 4 percent in 2013 to $765 billion, and U.S. exports to more than 200 countries around the world were valued at $2.3 trillion. As impressive as those numbers are, U.S. exports could grow even more if Congress reauthorizes trade promotion authority (TPA) legislation.

TPA, also known as fast-track negotiating authority, gives the president the power to negotiate international agreements that Congress can vote up or down, but cannot amend or filibuster. Congress allowed the last such grant of TPA to lapse in 2007 as a result of partisan politics. Since then, more than 100 trade deals have been put into force worldwide.

A TPA package should include language that reflects the realities of the digital economy; provides for strong protection and enforcement provisions; and allows flexible limitations, exceptions and immunities.

Our immediate and long-term future depends on competitiveness. Consumers around the world recognize the United States as the global leader in innovation. Our products are considered the best in class. Give us a neutral playing ground and we will not only gain market share, but also bring home profitability to reinvest in our infrastructure and remain a world leader.

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