Tech Industry Rallies Round Trade Agenda, But Should It?
The U.S. House of Representatives approved President Obama’s Trade Promotion Authority agenda after failing to do so the week before and the bill will now head to the Senate where there is no guarantee it will survive.
The U.S. House of Representatives approved President Obama’s Trade Promotion Authority agenda after failing to do so the week before and the bill now heads to the Senate where there is no guarantee it will survive.
The crux of the bill gives the president “fast-track” authority to negotiate global trade deals that the Congress can either approve or reject with no options of changing them. Already there is a proposal involving Japan and 11 other nations waiting for approval if the bill passes the Senate.
What makes this interesting is that although everything in Washington revolves around politics, the bill would not have made it without Republican support. It passed with a 218-208 vote in the house. What killed the bill the last go-around were the Democrats who voted against it. "Let's kill this donkey once and for all," Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., said before the latest vote.
But is this trade agenda smart and is it good for business? Some believe it will make it easier and faster to do business with overseas countries while others believe it will hurt the U.S. workforce, specifically those that are pro-union.
Immediately following the bill’s passage in the House, many technology companies and executives supported the action including CompTIA, TECNA and 27 regional tech councils.
“This legislation will facilitate access to expanded markets for U.S. for technology companies, boosting the U.S. economy and increasing American jobs,” said Elizabeth Hyman, executive vice president, CompTIA, in a prepared statement. “Trade promotion authority is critical to the completion of current trade negotiations, such as the Trans Pacific Partnership between the United States and Asia-Pacific region.”
Supporters of the bill have argued just that: That the U.S. must stay actively involved in international trade or other, non-democratic countries—such as China for example—will have more influence over trade rules.
“When a locally designed microchip is sold to a foreign manufacturer, the United States economy grows,” said TECNA chairman Steven Zylstra, in a statement. Zylstra is also president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council.
“When software developed in the U.S. is sold globally, it increases the tax base. Because the trade sector relies on local services, robust trade drives employment in virtually every industry,” he said. “The Trade Promotion Authority bill that passed today would make it easier for Congress to negotiate trade agreements. Easier trade means a brighter future for the United States as a whole and the technology industry in particular.”
On the flip side, opponents including organized labor believe such a bill will negatively impact thousands of U.S. jobs by making it easier to shift employment to other countries where wages are lower. Many technology companies are not buying into that way of thinking, with CompTIA cting that trade authority has been critical to opening new markets for U.S. companies and, therefore, workers since the 1930s.
“Reenacting and updating TPA-2015 will be a major step in addressing new issues and challenges to doing business in the global marketplace that have emerged since the last iteration drafted over 10 years ago. International trade is vital to the American tech industry. In 2014, U.S. manufactured tech goods exported from the U.S. totaled $209 billion in 2014, while imported tech goods totaled $366 billion,” according to CompTIA.
Whether the bill will make it past the Republican-controlled Senate is anybody’s guess, as it already has drawn strange political bedfellows. If it passes, will it be good for businesses, specifically in the technology sector? That is anybody’s guess as well. What do you think?
Knock 'em alive!