From the time President Franklin Roosevelt incorporated the Reciprocal Tariff Act into the New Deal, opening new markets to American products and helping to pave the way for America’s emergence from the Great Depression, progressive Americans have been fighting to expand our trade relationships with the rest of the world — but only in a way that reflects core American values.
Roosevelt described the Democratic Party’s trade policy as consisting of “negotiating agreements with individual countries permitting them to sell goods to us in return for which they will let us sell to them goods and crops which we produce.”
Over 70 years since the completion of the Reciprocal Tariff Act, Democrats are still working tirelessly for trade relationships that raise the bar for workers’ rights, strengthen protections for our environment, and level the playing field for American businesses. Trade helped us emerge from the Great Depression then. It can help us seize the opportunities of the global economy now.
Consider the fact that more than one out of every five Wisconsin jobs is tied to exports. Nationally these jobs pay better — almost 20 percent better, on average — than their non-trade counterparts. In fact, of Wisconsin’s 8,581 exporters, 87 percent are small- and medium-sized companies. In agriculture alone, we are the second-leading state in dairy exports in the country.
New trade agreements can open the door for more American workers to grow their paychecks, but in order to do so, they must reflect another core principle of Roosevelt’s: “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”
I am the first to admit, however, that some past trade agreements have not lived up to their expectations or our core American values — when that’s occurred, I’ve opposed such deals. We need a new negotiating approach from past agreements.
But we also need a proactive, aggressive trade agenda that’s going to work for American workers, our businesses, and our farmers. That is why my colleagues in the New Democrat Coalition and I have been actively engaged in negotiations to make Trade Promotion Authority a tool to ensure the next round of trade agreements America joins are not only free, but fair as well.
We can strengthen our trade agreements by ensuring that the Trade Promotion Authority bill we soon consider includes measures to:
Increase public transparency and Congressional consultation to ensure the public has adequate time to review, analyze and provide feedback on trade agreements prior to Congressional consideration.
Level the playing field for American workers, businesses and farmers, who too often find themselves competing with countries that have substandard labor practices, by requiring our trading partners to adopt fully enforceable core labor protections.
Strengthen intellectual property standards abroad to ensure that American goods and innovations are protected from the threat of piracy.
Push our trading partners to adopt fully enforceable environmental standards as a core component of any agreement.
Commit to enforcing the trade laws we have and holding our trading partners to the same high standards we hold ourselves.
With 4 percent of the world’s population, America is and has always been a nation of trade. President John F. Kennedy declared Democrats a party of trade. Done right, trade can lift up workers, small businesses and innovators here at home.
My colleagues in the New Democrat Coalition and I will fight for trade that does just that.
Democrat Ron Kind represents Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District.
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