Opening new markets helps Houston businesses and jobs. One half of Houston’s economy is directly related to business from the Port of Houston.  Surprisingly, 95% of consumers of U.S. goods are outside of the United States. For these reasons, I support creating new markets for American products and expanding opportunities for American businesses overseas.  

American companies will win if they have a level playing field, but right now that is not the case in many countries in Asia because of high local taxes on American goods and services. To help American companies access markets in Asia with reduced barriers and tariffs, the U.S. began negotiations on a free trade agreement under President Bush.  President Obama’s Administration has continued these negotiations. But, the Constitution states that Congress has the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations. Trade Promotion Authority allows Congress to insert itself into the negotiations; otherwise, the Administration will have free reign to negotiate whatever it wants.

Under Trade Promotion Authority, Congress inserted about 150 mandatory conditions for the Administration to follow in its negotiations. Once the negotiations are concluded, the text of the agreement will be made public for 60 days for the American public to read and comment on. After that timeframe, Congress will have a second vote to approve or reject the deal. If Congress rejects the deal, there is no deal. If Congress supports the deal, U.S. sovereignty is not affected in any way. No part of the deal that contradicts U.S. law can go into effect and no provision of the deal can prevent the United States from changing its laws. U.S. law always wins out.

I understand the transparency concerns that many have raised. I read the classified text. Broadly speaking, it is good for America and will help exporters have more markets overseas and fair terms to conduct business. Despite rumors, it also does not include any language dealing with immigration policy, and Chairman Ryan has stated in writing that he will include explicit language to ensure that this agreement cannot change our immigration laws. And, I certainly understand the fears that this Administration will simply defy the law to get its way as its done time and time again. But, in this case, Congress has the final say. The agreement will not go into effect unless Congress approves it.

If we do not get this agreement done, then China will happily step in and negotiate its own regional agreement for its own products. Personally, I think the United States should write the rules. That’s why I voted for Trade Promotion Authority.

Congressman Poe is Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism, Non-Proliferation and Trade. He is also the Co-Founder and Co-Chair of the Congressional PORTS Caucus.