We knew our next president would be a protectionist. Now we know which one: On Tuesday, Republican Donald Trump won an astonishing victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
For a little while longer, however, we’ll have the benefit of a president who isn’t a protectionist.
That’s why Congress must act immediately on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trade agreement that promises to boost our slow-growth economy. Its political lifeline lasts until the end of the year.
For TPP, it’s now or never.
The pundits will insist that a lame-duck Congress won’t even put TPP on the desk of President Obama, who sees its success as an important part of his legacy. Yet this declares defeat without a fight. Besides, the pundits have been wrong about almost everything in 2016. Why should we trust their judgment now?
The answer is: We shouldn’t.
“I think we can get the votes,” U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said recently on CNBC.
Ambassador Froman would know. He’s our country’s top trade diplomat, and for months he has pushed for TPP both in public as well as behind closed doors on Capitol Hill.
He made another point in his CNBC interview: “It’s up to the congressional leadership to decide to bring it forward.”
The House and Senate have had a terrible and powerful political beat-down during this no-facts campaign on all forms of trade. That is now over and it is time for them to do the right thing. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell must make sure it comes up for consideration in this lame duck session. If they do—and if USTR Froman is right about the votes—then TPP may yet become a welcome reality.
The case for TPP is simple: It makes America greater.
By eliminating trade barriers around the Pacific, it will increase the flow of goods and service across borders, creating jobs, boosting opportunities, and lowering consumer prices. The Peterson Institute for International Economics predicts that by 2030, TPP would increase U.S. incomes by $131 billion and U.S exports by $357 billion.
Farmers like me have much to gain. We depend on exports, and TPP wipes out tariffs on most U.S. food and agricultural products, especially to Japan, where tariffs impose an average tax of 19 percent on American goods, as well as Vietnam, where the average rate is 16 percent. Today our top corn buyers are Mexico, Peru, Japan, Colombia and Chile – all helped by trade agreements.
The National Pork Producers Council anticipates “an exponential increase in U.S. pork exports,” creating at least 10,000 jobs. Economist Dermot Hayes of Iowa State University says TPP is the single most significant commercial opportunity ever for the U.S. pork industry.
Dairy farmers have a lot to gain as well, such as better access to Canadian consumers. Canada isn’t waiting for us, however: It’s on the verge of approving a new trade pact with the European Union that will make it harder for Americans to sell dairy products to our northern neighbor.
Is TPP ideal? Of course not. No trade agreement provides complete satisfaction for everyone. Yet TPP represents a clear improvement over the status quo. This is a deal to take. Rejecting it now, in the belief that we’ll come up with something better in the future, is an error stopping 60 years of trade progress. We cannot let the perfect become the enemy of the good and the vocal minority triumph.
We certainly can’t count on President-elect Trump to do the right thing.
From the very first moments of his campaign, he has publicly opposed TPP—and he has made his opposition to TPP a major theme of his candidacy. As soon as he takes the oath of office, passage of TPP is diminished.
So Congress must act. In the next few weeks, it should approve TPP and put it on the desk of a president who will sign it into law.
I’ve never thought it’s too much to ask Congress to do the right thing. Let’s get it done.