I have long believed that when instituted correctly and fairly, trade agreements open up new markets to U.S. goods, create opportunities for American companies and their employees, and lift the standard of living for people in the country with whom we are trading. If the United States is going to compete in the 21st century global economy, we cannot shy away from opportunities to guide and expand global trade.

The 113th Congress boasts the most robust trade agenda of recent decades. As the President announced in March of this year, we have our work cut out for us.  The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) promises to be a 21st century agreement that could set the stage for many trade agreements to come. The US-EU agreement aims to be a great addition to the numerous agreements the United States already has.

As a member of the Trade Subcommittee on the Ways and Means Committee, I will continue to ensure our trade efforts are sound and do not promote bad policy. We also need to write laws that comply with international obligations. For example, in a trade dispute brought by Brazil to the World Trade Organization, it was determined that the U.S. cotton subsidy program violated international trade rules. Instead of working to adjust this program immediately, the U.S. agreed to pay Brazil $147.3 million a year for technical assistance to the cotton program. This payout is only further distorting the market and obstructing future trade growth. We must resolve the U.S.-Brazil trade dispute by updating and reforming U.S. agricultural subsidies, particularly cotton, instead of making annual payments to Brazil. We cannot continue to take the easy way out by maintaining this payout and we absolutely cannot expect our trading partners to play be the rules if we are not willing to do the same. Instead, we must work to promote fiscally responsible policies that do not distort the marketplace.


Free Trade Agreements

The United States currently has 18 free trade agreements (FTA) in force. These agreements are creating new opportunities for U.S. businesses and workers as they lowers tariffs and remove many non-tariff barriers. The following are the most recently implemented FTAs: 


The impact of the elimination of tariffs and related barriers is estimated to increase U.S. GDP by nearly $12 billion and U.S. goods exports by nearly $11 billion annually. For Wisconsin, this agreement is particularly beneficial for the machinery manufacturers, computer and electronic products and agriculture. In particular, Wisconsin’s dairy industry is the nation’s largest exporter and is the state’s largest agricultural industry. Many of our agricultural products will benefit from this agreement by establishing duty-free tariff rate quotas for cheese, skim/whole milk powder, food whey, and butter as well as immediately eliminating feed whey tariffs.  For more specific information on how the U.S.-Korea FTA impacts Wisconsin, please click here. To learn other key facts about the agreement, click here.


Panama is one of the Latin American countries with which the U.S. has a current trade surplus, yet fewer than 40% of U.S. exports entered Panama duty-free. This comprehensive trade agreement will eliminate tariffs and other barriers to U.S. exports, immediately resulting in 87% of U.S. goods entering Panama duty-free and remaining tariffs being eliminated within 10 years. More recently, Panama signed a bilateral tax information exchange agreement. For more specific information on how the U.S.-Panama FTA impacts Wisconsin, please click here. To learn other key facts about the agreement, click here.


Over 90% of Colombian products entered the U.S. market duty-free in 2010, while U.S. merchandise entering Colombia faced tariffs averaging 9%. This FTA is designed to level the playing field and will eliminate tariffs for over 87% of U.S. exports of consumer and industrial products within five years. The Colombia FTA is expected to expand American exports by more than $1.1 billion and increase U.S. GDP by $2.5 billion. In 2007, Wisconsin’s merchandise exports to Colombia totaled $84.7 million, an increase of 162% from 2003 to 2007. Additionally, Colombia is a large market for U.S. farm products with significant potential for growth.  Despite high tariffs and other barriers on most agricultural products, including key Wisconsin farm products such as vegetables, feed grains, and dairy, U.S. exporters shipped more than $1.2 billion in U.S. farm products to Colombia in 2007, up 41% from 2006.  To address the on-going labor concerns in Colombia, the Obama Administration and Colombian governments agreed to an important action plan related to labor rights, which must be completed before the FTA would go into effect. For more specific information on the U.S.-Colombia FTA impacts Wisconsin, please click here. To learn other key facts about the agreement, click here


The following two agreements, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the US-EU agreement, are currently being negotiated:

Trans-Pacific Partnership

Now that the Lima round of negotiations have wrapped up and Japan will officially enter negotiations in July, TPP negotiations are more important than ever. Currently, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam are the participating countries. The group is quite diverse, including countries that are less than half the size of the US in terms of population and economy. A potential TPP agreement may present an opportunity for the United States to expand trade and investment with a large and fast-growing market. Non-U.S. TPP partners collectively represent a potential market with a population approximately 50% larger than the U.S. and several TPP economies have been growing rapidly over the past decade: average GDP growth for 2002 to 2012 was 7.0% in Vietnam, 6.4% in Peru, 5.9% in Singapore, and 5.1% in Malaysia.

U.S. trade and foreign direct investment flows with TPP countries have increased significantly. U.S. exports to TPP countries increased by more than 75% between the period of 2002 to 2012, exceeding $159 billion in services in 2011 and $689 billion in goods in 2012. Thirteen U.S. imports from TPP countries increased by more than 50% since 2002, with services imports of nearly $82 billion in 2011 and goods imports of $843 billion in 2012.

While autos and financial products will be an important topic, I will also be carefully watching the provisions that affect our industries in western and central Wisconsin like agriculture and manufacturing, especially those that affect small businesses.

US-EU Agreement

The US-EU agreement, also known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, could be the biggest bilateral trade deal ever negotiated. The European Union and the United States have the largest bilateral trade relationship and enjoy the most integrated economic relationship in the world, making the agreement one of the most important, but also one of the most difficult to negotiate. The agreement intends to further open EU markets to grow the US exports that already amount to $459 billion and supports an estimated 2.4 million good-paying American jobs, including jobs in western and central Wisconsin.

An agreement with the EU, our largest export market, recognizes that the economic relationship the two already share: one third of total goods and services trade, and nearly half of global economic output. The agreement is envisioned as one that is ambitious with high-standards for trade and investment that would provide significant benefit in terms of promoting U.S. international competitiveness, jobs, and growth. As described by the Administration, a successfully negotiated agreement would aim to boost economic growth in the United States and Europe and add to excess of 13 million American and European jobs already supported by transatlantic trade and investment.