Recently I sat down with Democratic Congressman Jim Costa of California and Republican Congressman Erik Paulsen of Minnesota to discuss one of the few issues that remain bipartisan on Capitol Hill—trade.
Increased exports from the U.S. over the past five years have been responsible for one-third of the country’s economic growth. Last year, exports of goods and services reached a record high of $2.3 trillion. America’s exports to its 20 free trade agreement partners have risen by 57 percent in the past five years, whereas they rose just 44 percent for the rest of the world.
U.S. negotiators are continuing to hash out details of two significant and new trade agreements: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Taken together, the countries participating in TPP and TTIP account for two-thirds of global GDP and half of global trade, and have a combined market of 1.3 billion consumers. Nearly 70 percent of U.S. exports already go to TPP or TTIP partners, and 84 percent of foreign direct investment comes from them. By 2018, TPP and TTIP markets are estimated to grow by $6.7 trillion. At the conclusion of both negotiations, the United States would enjoy liberalized trade with almost two-thirds of the global economy.
While Democrats and Republicans have historically coalesced around trade agreements that hold great promise for increasing U.S. exports and jobs, there is a limited window of opportunity to see the Obama administration and Congress, as well as the United States and its trading partners in Asia and Europe, land on the same page.
[The resignation of assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs Wess Mitchell] is surprising news, which seems to have caught everyone off guard. He doesn’t appear to have shared this news with his ambassadors, who were in Washington last week for a global chiefs of mission conference. His deputy is also slated to retire soon, which raises question of near term leadership on European policy at a time of challenges there.
[Wess] Mitchell was a strong supporter of NATO, particularly in Eastern Europe where he will be sorely missed. His departure comes follows the resignation of senior Pentagon officials – Robert Karem and Tom Goffus – working on NATO along with Secretary Mattis. Without this pro-alliance caucus, NATO is now more vulnerable than at any time since the beginning of the Trump administration.