It’s time for a ‘yes’ vote on Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact

Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers.
Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers. Courtesy of Jay Timmons

In this election season, most Americans share a common frustration – even anger – that our leaders in Washington, D.C., aren’t doing enough to help American workers win in the global economy. We should be the best place in the world to create jobs, innovate new technologies and manufacture new products, and other countries are working overtime to steal our place as a global economic leader.

We need to seize every chance we get to secure jobs for manufacturing workers and to help manufacturers in the United States sell their products to foreign customers before other countries do.

And we can take a big step toward achieving these goals through the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, also known as the TPP.

Unfortunately, some politicians have decided that it’s better for their political careers to spread myths about the TPP – and other trade agreements – than to deal with the facts. They have chosen to mislead voters, even though doing so could give countries like China, Mexico and Germany an economic advantage over the United States.

They like to claim that the TPP is bad for manufacturers, and if what they said were true, I would oppose the TPP as well. But if you ask actual manufacturers across the United States, you will find support for the TPP because they understand what it means for them and for their workers.

Manufacturers know that trade agreements make it easier to sell American-made products to people who live overseas. They also know that if these customers are not buying our products, they will buy someone else’s. While the United States is sitting on the sidelines, China and other countries are rapidly forging trade agreements with nations around the world. That means they get to set the rules instead of us. Why would we surrender that opportunity to China or any other country? With the TPP, the United States has the chance to beat China and others, winning access to markets in the Pacific region and exporting our products and our values.

Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, and Janesville, Iowa, are home to the manufacturing facilities of W.S. Darley & Co., a manufacturer of firetrucks and fire equipment here in America. But the company doesn’t serve only fire departments in the United States. It sells to more than 100 countries. As Jeff Darley, the company’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, puts it, “People are always surprised. . . . That’s because it can be difficult to make the connection between our local community and the global economy.”

When the United States signs new trade agreements with other countries, it helps companies like Darley reach new customers by getting rid of taxes that those countries were imposing on U.S.-made goods. That makes our products more attractive, which, in turn, can increase demand for them, providing job security for the people who make them. The 11 other countries in the TPP are home to nearly 500 million customers. In other words, the TPP is a huge opportunity for us, which is why the National Association of Manufacturers is working across both sides of the aisle and with the Obama administration to forge a path for a vote on this trade agreement later this year.

Despite the rhetoric we hear, trade agreements, with proper enforcement, really do support good-paying American jobs. Exports support approximately 6 million manufacturing jobs in the United States, and those jobs pay more than non-trade-related jobs. In political debates this year, we’ve been hearing more about the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, which went into effect in the 1990s. What we’re not hearing, however, is that in NAFTA’s first four years, manufacturers added nearly 800,000 jobs in the United States and the agreement helped our country reach record levels of manufacturing output.

So while it may be easy for politicians to score a few political points by scaring people about trade and the TPP, they really should try to score some points for America instead. They should be more concerned about America winning in the global economy than about winning their next election. It’s time to learn the facts, tell the truth and say “yes” to the TPP.

Jay Timmons is president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers.