While the Pacific Ocean may seem far from our shores on the Gulf of Mexico, it’s great news for Louisiana that there is progress on Capitol Hill toward a new trading partnership with Asian nations.
A “fast-track” plan to approve the new Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement was put together by Republican leaders and U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a leader in pro-trade Democratic ranks.
Trade means growth, so it’s really odd that opposition to the new initiative from President Barack Obama tends to come from Democrats allied with labor unions. The Democratic leader of the Senate, Harry Reid, of Nevada, is against the new proposal.
Despite the progress on the TPP measure, it still faces a fight because of those who live in an outdated world of economic gains abroad translating into lost jobs at home. It just doesn’t work that way.
There remain political forecasts of typhoons on Capitol Hill, as some Republican members of House and Senate are reportedly so unhappy with the president’s policies in other areas that they might stall or kill the TPP.
That would be counterproductive.
The key issue is granting trade promotion authority, which allows for a single up-or-down vote on a trade agreement. This authority has been granted to every president since Gen. Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s, but it’s a tougher sell in today’s partisan atmosphere.
We hope that the GOP will be led by pro-trade voices like that of U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, who called trade promotion authority “the catalyst for getting the best possible trade deals with Asia and Europe that will drive American economic growth over the next several decades.”
If the Pacific seems far away, the reality is that the global economy makes trade more than just a geographic conception. Look at the vital economies of nations such as Japan and South Korea.
Already, Louisiana ranks No. 1 in export growth, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, sending about $59 billion in goods abroad in 2014.
Waterways, inland and Gulfside, are vital to the state’s economy.
“The maritime industry is an invisible giant in Louisiana with a sizable economic impact on the state and the nation,” says Stephen Waguespack, president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.
He rolled out the positive numbers, including the 1 in 5 jobs in Louisiana in some way connected to the maritime industry. “In fact,” Waguespack said, “Louisiana is the only state to post more than $10 billion in total gross economic output directly related to its maritime industry.”
We urge Louisiana members of Congress to back fast-track, whatever they might think of the president’s policies in other arenas. Expanded trade deals are good for Louisiana’s economy.