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White House Fly-in Business Briefing on Trade

July 19,2016 | By Debbie Kitchin Principal, InterWorks, LLC
While Congress is heading out for a long break, President Obama’s administration is still hard at work to get the Trans Pacific Partnership ratified this year.  At a White House Briefing on TPP and the President’s Trade Agenda last week, Ambassador Michael Froman, US Trade Representative, addressed a group of 50 business leaders from around the country about what the US Trade Office is doing to resolve differences and gain support.  It was exciting to participate in the fly-in briefing.  The push is on to ratify the agreement this year between the United States and 11 Pacific Rim trading partners, possibly after the November election.  The administration has been working with Congress on outstanding issues of concern, one of the last remaining ones being intellectual property rights protection for pharmaceuticals.  The Ambassador was confident that support would be gained and it could be passed this year.  When asked about opposition to trade agreements, Ambassador Froman commented about the forces of change in our world.  Two forces of change are globalization and technological advancement.  Both forces are affecting our industries and jobs.  But you don’t get to vote on these forces of change – they are happening.  Trade agreements are how we shape these forces of change. The benefits of ratification are tremendous.  

TPP would reduce or eliminate 18,000 tariffs on American exports.  It contains chapters governing e-commerce, intellectual property, and state-owned enterprises.  It is the first free trade agreement to have a chapter specifically for small and medium-sized businesses.  Small businesses typically do not have extensive distribution networks for their products.  They often rely on e-commerce.  The TPP puts in place protections for payment systems, shipping services and other aspects of e-commerce needed for small companies to export.  It also requires transparency in customs and make other standards such as testing requirements consistent across the 12 countries.  The agreement also includes the most enforceable labor and environmental standards in any agreement of its kind.  For example, Vietnam, which currently doesn’t allow workers to unionize, would be required to recognize their workers’ freedom of association and right of collective bargaining.

Ratification of the TPP will provide a tremendous boost to Oregon.  Trade with TPP countries represented 48% of Oregon’s exports in 2011.  I was happy to share GPI’s Greater Portland Global report with the business leaders and administration officials at the briefing.  Many of the businesses shared their challenges with engaging in international trade as well as their support for many aspects of TPP.  Although our company is not directly involved in international trade, I see it as a key component of economic growth and vitality for our region and that does impact the opportunities available to our business and employees.  I am supportive of TPP because it will bring many benefits to Oregon companies while incorporating environmental and labor protections that are not currently in place.

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