President Obama reached across the aisle earlier this month in his State of the Union Address by asking Congress to give him Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). The President's proposition offers Congress an opportunity to buck the trend of partisan gridlock and promote job growth through trade--I suggest Congress take it.
TPA grants the President the authority to negotiate trade agreements and ensures that Congress will conclude a vote on these agreements quickly and without amendment. It's a procedural agreement that, to most, does not sound like it would have a measurable impact on jobs or the U.S. economy. But TPA is critical to the passage of free trade agreements (FTAs), which have bolstered businesses, such as mine, across the U.S. that rely on trade.
My business, Marlin Steel, manufactures custom steel wire baskets and sheet metal fabrications here in Baltimore City. Our products have a wide variety of uses, from the automotive, aerospace, medical and pharmaceutical industries. These products, stamped with the marker "Made in the USA," are exported to our clients in markets across the world such as China and Japan.
Today, we owe 20 percent of our jobs to our exports at Marlin Steel. We're not alone: businesses all across Maryland depend on trade and, like us, have seen the benefits of exporting their goods.
Among the greatest challenges these businesses face is reaching their customers in foreign markets. Trade barriers, like tariffs and complicated regulations, impede U.S. businesses from reaching potential customers abroad. That's why free trade is, and has been, so important to these businesses. This was particularly apparent after the U.S. entered into FTAs with trading partners in Latin America and Asia, bringing down barriers to entry to a host of lucrative markets for export and bringing business to our exporters here at home.
The impact of these FTAs on our state's exporting businesses has been substantial.
From 2002 to 2012, Maryland saw an increase of goods exports to FTA partner countries of 135 percent. This trade boost has created jobs and helped trade-related businesses grow across the state. What's more, free trade has helped to create well-paying jobs--jobs that pay 13 to 18 percent more than non-trade related jobs. The impact of trade on wages is particularly apparent in the manufacturing sector, where the most trade intensive industries--where combined exports and imports amount to 75 percent or more of industrial output--can earn 50 percent more than the least trade-engaged manufacturing sectors, according to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).
Today, FTA trading partners are now Maryland's most vital: we currently export more than six times as many goods to FTA trading partners than non-FTA partners. So why would we not want to continue reducing trade barriers and boosting exports through more free trade?
Currently, the Obama Administration is negotiating two new major trade agreements, one with 11 Pacific Rim countries, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and one with the European Union known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). These two agreements have the potential to bring even greater economic benefits to our state. But only one FTA in the past 40 years has been completed without TPA. Without TPA, the open markets these FTAs promise could remain locked.
That's precisely why Congress needs to pass an updated TPA bill. It offers the U.S. the chance to make headway on trade agreements that would bring jobs and growth to exporting businesses here in Baltimore City, Maryland, and across the U.S.