Pacific trade deal is good for California

Cargo cranes stand ready in February at the Port of Los Angeles. In 2014, California exported $174.1 billion to 229 foreign countries. There's a bitter debate over the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Cargo cranes stand ready in February at the Port of Los Angeles. In 2014, California exported $174.1 billion to 229 foreign countries. There's a bitter debate over the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership. The Associated Press

Each week, more than 6,000 of my Intel colleagues go to work in Folsom, developing innovative technologies destined for markets across the U.S. and around the globe. They’re joined by millions of people across California who work in diverse industries that depend on access to markets abroad. It’s time we expand and level the international playing field for California businesses.

Congress is considering legislation that will establish core principles for U.S. trade talks, outline a consultative process with Congress and strengthen the U.S. position at the negotiating table.

Once fast-track authority is passed, President Barack Obama and the U.S. trade representative will be one step closer to concluding two important agreements: the Trans-Pacific Partnership with 11 Asian-Pacific countries, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union. Collectively, these trading partners account for 65 percent of global trade in goods and services and represent nearly 70 percent of U.S. exports.

Each year, California businesses export hundreds of billions of dollars in goods and services, including semiconductors and other technology equipment and agricultural goods such as fruit and nuts. Altogether, trade supports more than 1 in 5 jobs in the state, roughly 4.7 million.

And we can’t forget 95 percent of the world’s population lives outside the United States, representing 80 percent of the world’s purchasing power. The more nations, cities and people we’re able to trade with, the more our economy will grow, create jobs and drive progress.

The challenge Intel and other American businesses face is restrictive trade barriers. Many countries have policies in place designed to limit foreign competition; in others, there is active resistance against the entrance of U.S. companies.

This is particularly concerning when it comes to limitations on the free flow of data across borders, an essential requirement for cloud computing. Also a problem are requirements that companies make significant investments in local research and development – and even transfer sensitive technologies – if they want full market access.

Policies like these do significant damage not only to our ability to export goods and services, but also to the process of innovation. Our best way to fight back is to work with our trade partners and establish agreements that identify sensible ground rules for international trade.

California is better positioned than any state to make the most of open markets around the world. In 2012, California companies sold their products in 225 international markets – including many that are only partially open to trade. And, according to Business Roundtable, 96 percent of California’s 75,012 exporters are small- and medium-sized companies with less than 500 workers.

Intel does roughly three-quarters of its advanced manufacturing and design in the United States, with investments supported by the more than three-quarters of revenue from overseas. By adopting strong trade agreements with Asia and Europe, the president and Congress can support California’s economy and help businesses of all sizes grow.

Agreements like these also provide a critical opportunity to raise labor and environmental standards around the world. They have become vital components of trade pacts over the last 20 years, and with the support of Congress, the president will have a strong hand in demanding further improvements.

We need Congress and the president to secure trade agreements that will give us the best opportunity to continue to compete globally, grow jobs and invest here at home.

Eric Mentzer is a vice president in Intel’s platform engineering group based in Folsom.