Dow has been in Louisiana for nearly 60 years. Our manufacturing facilities sit on the banks of the Mississippi River — an artery that allows America to export goods around the world. Since we began production in 1956, we have grown into Louisiana’s largest petrochemical company.

Our story is like that of many large and small businesses in the United States. Our employees come to us from small towns and large cities every day ready to make products that serve all aspects of the global economy.

Most importantly for Dow, and thousands of other Louisiana businesses, we have grown our business through international trade.

I am the site leader for our St. Charles Operation site, just upriver from New Orleans, where our workforce is proud to manufacture more than 100 basic and specialty chemicals that can be found in films, jet fuel, plastics, medical supplies, and even fabric softeners — which are then shipped to customers in approximately 160 countries worldwide.

A recent visit by our Dow USA President, Deborah Borg, and Assistant Secretary of Commerce Marcus Jadotte underscored for us just how important being located on the U.S. Gulf Coast is for Dow.

In fact, the combination of low-cost feedstocks, a quality workforce and easy access to global markets allowed Dow Louisiana to export 722 million pounds of product via marine packed cargo with a value of $779 million in 2014.

There’s no question trade has been critical not just to Dow’s continued success, but that of the employees and families across Louisiana whose livelihoods are supported in part by trade, including my own.

It’s also clear that better access to global markets means more benefits for our company — and the U.S. economy as a whole.

With 95 percent of the world’s population and 80 percent of its purchasing power located outside of the United States, securing new trade deals that lower or eliminate barriers to reach these consumers is critical for future growth.

Sounds simple, but there is a catch. It is nearly impossible to finalize new trade deals if Congress does not pass something called Trade Promotion Authority, or TPA.

TPA is a procedural tool that helps Congress and the president pass trade deals efficiently. Through this process, Congress sets the negotiating priorities for the president, and then decides on the final agreement through an up-or-down vote.

This not only enables the United States to come to the table with one voice on what it expects trade agreements to accomplish, but it also gives our negotiating partners the confidence they need to come forward with their best offers, knowing that Congress will not tear a deal apart though the amendment process. To get a sense of just how important TPA is to getting trade agreements, consider this: Just one trade agreement in the past 40 years has been completed without it.

Trade currently helps support 6,000 Dow employees and contractors in Louisiana, who are only a small part of the 539,000 Louisianians with trade-related jobs.

Opening the door to new trade agreements that increase access to global consumers for Dow and other Louisiana companies through TPA is critical. I know it, our St. Charles employees know it and thousands of businesses and employees across Louisiana know it.

Now it’s time to make our voices heard.

You can help show your support for TPA and the new opportunities it will help shepherd in by calling on our lawmakers in Congress to pass TPA legislation as soon as possible.

Johnny Chavez

site leader, Dow St. Charles Operations