Leaders of 12 Pacific Rim countries signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Thursday, the first step in approving this historic agreement that will support thousands of jobs in Northern California, while boosting wages and expanding opportunities for Americans investing overseas.
Perhaps most importantly, this agreement tackles inequality in a way that no trade deal has ever done before – by raising global standards on human rights, labor and the environment.
Despite growing concern about inequality, straightforward solutions have been few and far between. However, the TPP represents a concrete chance to push back against inequality by boosting growth around the world and wages at home, with special support for the small businesses that have the greatest potential to spread prosperity more broadly.
As mayor of West Sacramento, I’ve worked hard so that residents have the best opportunities to raise a family, send their child to college and save for retirement. That includes working to ensure that we are supporting good-paying jobs. Even though Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times, the middle class is still feeling the squeeze from the recession and stagnant wages.
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The trade deal will combat this by supporting local export industries and growing jobs that pay 18 percent more on average than non-export jobs. Moreover, expanding access to foreign markets drives investment in infrastructure that benefits everyone.
For example, lower tariffs will make California-grown rice more competitive on the global market. Increasing rice exports are key to the growth of the West Sacramento port.
The benefits from trade are not only felt by those directly employed in the export sector. A recent Peterson Institute for International Economics study found that the TPP will increase annual real income in the United States by $131 billion and exports by $357 billion by 2030. The study also concludes that labor will accumulate a greater share of the deal’s benefits – meaning more money in the pockets of American workers, a clear departure from past trade deals.
Of course, the United States isn’t the only country that would benefit from the trade deal. The poorest countries, including Vietnam, are expected to see massive growth in GDP, lifting hundreds of thousands of people out of poverty. The agreement also ensures that these workers will receive the right to organize and a minimum wage. Gains for workers are not just on paper; they are at the heart of the agreement.
Some Democrats have come out against the TPP, citing past trade deals that didn’t live up to the hype. While I understand their concerns, America must not take a back seat while our competitors stack the deck against us.
We must lead to reshape the rules of globalization to help our middle class. It contains enforceable provisions to make sure that workers, wages, and the environment are protected here at home and around the world, making this agreement the most progressive ever negotiated.
The TPP is a powerful tool to combat inequality in the United States and across the globe. That’s why Congress should work to pass this trade agreement as soon as possible.
Christopher Cabaldon is mayor of West Sacramento and a member of the Progressive Coalition for American Jobs, an advocacy group promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He can be contacted at Christopherc@cityofwestsacramento.org.