A decade-long effort to expand Georgia's Port of Savannah is finally coming to fruition. Dredging will begin soon, and construction should be complete about the time the Panama Canal also finishes an upgrade allowing significantly larger ships to travel directly from across the Pacific to ports along the east coast.
It is a project supported by members of both parties. It was championed by an inland Atlanta mayor and a governor who hails from the foothills of the north Georgia mountains. Georgians of all stripes pushed and pulled to get this project approved and funded because it means more trade. More trade means more jobs, a larger economy, and on the bottom line - more money.
The thing about trade -- among the earliest concepts taught in any economics class -- is that trade does not occur if either party is made worse off. Both are presumed to be better off or at worst, indifferent. Trade does not make one poorer. Thus, the expected increase in activity through Georgia's ports -- ports that handle exports equally with imports -- is the expectation that Georgia and our country will be better off with increased trade.
The U.S. House will be taking up a bill this week to allow for Trade Promotion Authority. This is an agreement that has been used many times in the past to allow the executive branch to negotiate trade treaties that will then be presented to Congress for an up or down vote.
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The idea for Trade Promotion Authority is relatively simple. Those wishing to negotiate an agreement do not wish to sit at the table with one person to make a deal, only to realize the real negotiations begin again with 100 Senators and 435 Representatives.
No one would send 536 people to speak for him or her in any negotiation if they wanted a deal. If the U.S. really desires increased trade, we need to have one voice at the negotiating table. In our system of government, that duty falls to the executive branch. The House and Senate continue to have the responsibility to ratify before any agreement becomes binding.
As is now custom, the permanent chorus of "no" from the far left and far right have joined in opposition to TPA. The United Auto Workers and the AFL-CIO have become unusual bedfellows with unelected GOP mouthpieces Allen West and Donald Trump.
Georgia Congress members looking for cover from an increasingly hostile populist right can take solace in the fact that Senator Ted Cruz -- often noted for voting against and attacking those in his own party -- supports TPA. They can also look at a poll being distributed by the Main Street Growth & Opportunity Coalition showing that 75 percent of Georgians believe that a president should have the authority to negotiate trade agreements with the consent of Congress regardless of party. The same poll indicates that 63 percent would strongly support a member of Congress who supports TPA.
The only trade agreement likely to reach fruition under the final years of President Obama's term is the Trans Pacific Partnership. This would link America, Mexico, and Canada with Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.
Unusual in the Trade Promotion Authority language is that any agreement would have a 60-day public review period, with any member of Congress having access to all text produced during negotiations and the ability to attend any negotiating round. Thus, those decrying this as a "secret" or "backroom" process are looking to score rhetorical points via fear mongering, rather than to encourage members of Congress to roll up their sleeves and actively observe a process in real time.
The world will continue to grow more interconnected via commerce. Georgia has made a substantial commitment to be part of this world market with its investment in our ports, as well as our world-class airport. This is no time to let those selling fear and misdirection to move the United States away from the table.
Georgia's members of Congress -- from both parties -- should join Senators Isakson and Perdue and support Trade Promotion Authority. Then they should continue to ensure America's interests are protected by actively monitoring the negotiations to ensure that our interests are protected as barriers are dropped from our Pacific trading partners.