While free trade pacts draw criticism from organized labor, the profound impact of international commerce in Louisiana ought to lead our state’s delegation in Congress to support a major new pact with Pacific Ocean countries.
At a recent roundtable discussion hosted by Greater New Orleans Inc., a top U.S. trade official urged support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. That treaty would reduce trade barriers and promote greater flexibility in the trade rules between the United States and 11 Pacific Rim countries.
Robert Holleyman, the deputy U.S. trade representative, said the accord before Congress contains “a series of provision that looks at what trade is like now and anticipates where it’s headed so that we are prepared.”
The pact would eliminate more than 18,000 tariffs that various countries impose on American-made exports. The signatories are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
As a Louisiana native, Holleyman understands the importance of free trade to our businesses and ports, and he told the New Orleans group that few states can benefit more.
In 2014, Louisiana exported about $17.5 billion worth of goods to countries covered by the pact, with Japan — where $2.8 billion of exported goods landed — leading the way. That total accounted for about 27 percent of Louisiana’s total exported goods, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
It’s not all about New Orleans or the Mississippi River: TPP would eliminate tariffs on rice, cotton, soybeans and poultry. It would make advances in the sometimes difficult discussions about exporting Louisiana beef and other agricultural products.
Parishes across Louisiana would thus benefit, as would the petrochemical manufacturers up and down the banks of the Mississippi and Calcasieu rivers.
The protection that other countries provide for their home markets is something that people should think about. The purpose of TPP and other trade agreements is to lower the barriers on both sides.
Those can be as sensitive politically in Tokyo or Hanoi, or Canberra in Australia as they are in Washington, D.C.
Because of the elaborate negotiations that are necessary to end up with a treaty suitable to both sides, the process can take years. Then, though, a vote of Congress is needed to ratify the agreement.
As with the politics of Australia or Vietnam or any other country that is party to TPP, American domestic politics can focus on the negatives or look toward the benefits to the larger economy.
Whatever the criticisms of free trade policies, Americans benefit enormously from global commerce. Louisiana’s economy will benefit from ratification of the TPP as well.
We commend President Barack Obama for his support of TPP, despite criticism from his own party’s ranks in Congress. It’s a good deal for the country and for Louisiana.