MONTGOMERY, Alabama – Alabama’s economy stands to gain investment and jobs if new trade agreements with Asian and European countries go into effect, but the fate of those treaties is caught up in the contentious debate over whether President Obama should be given fast-track authority to negotiate deals.
The U.S. Senate on Tuesday approved the Trade Promotion Authority, or TPA, and the final key vote in Congress is expected today. The TPA fast track is seen as critical in swiftly closing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) trade agreements.
- $2.6 billion in new global investment
- 17,730 new jobs from increased foreign direct investment
- 5,530 new manufacturing jobs
Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said the TPP and T-TIP agreements represent a rare opportunity to expand the economic potential of Alabama businesses and stimulate growth through new investment in the state. The agreements would also trigger an increase in Alabama exports, which reached $19.5 billion last year, and add to the vitality of the state’s economy.
“Exports are an important and growing component of the Alabama economy, with the value of these overseas shipments more than doubling over the past decade,” Secretary Canfield said. “We are committed to create more jobs through trade and to help products bearing the ‘Made in Alabama’ label compete in the global marketplace.”
Governor Robert Bentley has sent a letter to members of Alabama’s Congressional delegation urging them to support passage of the TPA legislation. Business groups have also lined up behind TPA, citing the benefits of the new Asian and European trade pacts.
For instance, the Business Roundtable, a conservative group of CEO’s from major U.S. corporations formed to promote pro-business policies, says TPP would strengthen the nation’s trade and investment relations with the Asian-Pacific region, expand trade and open new markets.
Alabama would see significant benefits from the TPP agreement, according to the Business Roundtable. Besides the U.S., the nations involved in these talks are Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Vietnam and Japan.
Five of those countries – Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Vietnam and Brunei – are currently not covered by any free trade agreement with the U.S., meaning Alabama producers can face steep tariffs and other barriers for exports. The TPP would remove barriers such as New Zealand’s 10 percent tariff on foreign-made automobiles.
The TPA is important because it would give the administration fast-track authority to conduct the final negotiations on the TPP trade deal. The legislation would allow Congress to vote on the treaty but not to amend it. Media reports say the other nations involved in the talks do not want to sign a trade deal that could be amended later.