Given the vast amounts of commerce and travel through the Pacific basin every day, it’s truly a landmark when an agreement further reduces trade barriers and makes farms and factories across the ocean more lucrative participants in the world economy.
Now, despite some hiccups, we hope the U.S. Congress will do its part and push through the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Because of the political deadlocks that afflict Capitol Hill, the new agreement is a work in progress in terms of the U.S. legislation. The administration of President Barack Obama and pro-trade Republicans banded together earlier this year to agree on a framework for approval of the agreement. That legislation requires a review period, and even the most ardently pro-trade members of the GOP are rightly taking their time to assess what TPP means for products, agricultural or mechanical, from their states.
We agree with U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, that TPP has “the potential to be a groundbreaking 21st-century agreement” that will benefit Louisiana industries and farmers. Boustany and other members of the delegation now will take a look at what is inevitably a voluminous document that involves trading rules for trillions of dollars in future commerce.
Every state is going to have particular concerns, including about such cash crops as rice and sugar cane in Louisiana, among many other products that will benefit from open trade rules.
One problematic issue is tobacco, as several pro-trade Republican senators from the South don’t want provisions that prevent cigarette manufacturers from challenging tobacco restrictions in the 12 countries involved.
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network applauded the provision, saying tobacco companies would otherwise use trade rules to challenge domestic anti-smoking laws in Australia, the U.S. or other signatory countries.
Realistically, regulation of smoking should be a domestic matter, so TPP ought not open the door to endless litigation over tobacco use in international trade forums. But just as realistically, given that liberal Democrats and trade unions often oppose free-trade treaties, every vote will count as the Senate and House take up the final product of years of negotiations.
These difficulties ought not to obscure the enormous economic and social benefits of freer trade across the Pacific basin.
Louisiana was sought by Thomas Jefferson and other early American visionaries because of its position at the mouth of the Mississippi River — one of the world’s great commercial pathways. Today, in addition to grain and other products shipped down the river, Louisiana is one of the world’s leading producers of petrochemical products.
Those products need outlets for sale, not only in the United States but in foreign countries. If the TPP fulfills the promise of freer trade, Louisiana will grow and our producers will benefit.
We hope the small hiccups involving a relatively few states, such as tobacco rules, do not get in the way of this broad and expansive benefit to the American economy.