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Op-Ed: Congress Should Act Quickly To Renew TPA Legislation

American businesses have always been on the cutting edge of innovation, leading other countries to desire high quality U.S. products and services. In fact, international trade is linked to approximately one third of our country’s gross domestic product and one in five American jobs.

Increasing the access U.S. businesses have to foreign markets is more important than ever, but continued growth is in jeopardy because Congress has not renewed Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) since 2007. Ongoing failure to act will put the conclusion and implementation of current trade negotiations at risk, and the kind of growth American businesses and workers need out of reach.

TPA is the legislative mechanism by which Congress exercises its Constitutional authority to direct the President to negotiate the best possible trade deals for U.S. companies, workers and families. Since Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s, Congress has authorized every Republican and Democratic President to exercise TPA. The resulting trade agreements have led to the opening of new markets for American companies and workers, and helped ensure a rules-based system for two-way trade.

U.S. trade with our free trade agreement partner countries supports over 17 million American jobs. Updating TPA and its negotiating objectives would help strategically guide U.S. goals across the range of trade negotiations in progress today. President Obama requested TPA renewal in his 2014 State of the Union address and bipartisan legislation has been introduced, but Congress has yet to act.

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The U.S. is currently involved in negotiations on several outstanding trade agreements, each of which involve important policy updates for 21st century trade and the retail industry: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with eleven countries throughout the Asia Pacific region and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the European Union, would collectively cover 60 percent of global GDP and 50 percent of world trade. In addition, ongoing negotiations under the World Trade Organization (WTO) for a Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), Environmental Goods Agreement, and an update to the 1996 Information Technology Agreement would break down global trade barriers and create new export opportunities for American services as well as environmental and high tech goods. The success of these agreements remains in jeopardy without the renewal of TPA legislation.

The retail industry is known for its innovation, progressive business practices and sophistication in a wide range of professional disciplines across many sectors of the economy—design, merchandising, accounting, marketing, real estate, logistics and loss prevention—to name a few.

As an industry, we employ more than 15 million Americans and 10 million more workers are reliant on our industry for work. These jobs are sustained by trade, both exports and imports.

Across the United States, over 38 million jobs depend on exports and imports, according to statistics from the Trade Benefits America Coalition, of which the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) is a member.

It is easy to recognize the numerous benefits of international trade for both the U.S. and our partners– increased American investment, a competitive economy, job growth, lower costs, and promotion of U.S. values on a variety of issues such as labor, environment, intellectual property rights, and state-owned enterprises. The successful implementation of these trade agreements could create tremendous new opportunities not only in the retail industry, but for generations of American workers.

If we don’t help to shape global trade rules, other countries will happily do so for us. Renewing TPA as soon as possible should be a Congressional priority.

Sandy Kennedy is President of the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) and is a member of President Obama’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations.