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American Shipper

Pritzker: Protectionists offer wrong solution

The U.S. Secretary of Commerce said in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program the Trans-Pacific Partnership and North American Free Trade Agreement, provide clear benefits to American workers.

   Critics of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other free trade agreements don’t understand how open trade benefits American companies and workers, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said Monday morning.
   Trade agreements are especially critical for small- and medium-size businesses so they can access foreign markets, where 95 percent of the world’s customers and some of the fastest growing economies exist, she said during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program.
   Removing trade barriers, lowering tariffs and elevating labor and environmental standards makes American workers and products more globally competitive, argued Pritzker.
   “I think it is the gold standard,” the administration’s point person on trade said, echoing a statement Hillary Clinton once made about TPP when she was President Obama’s secretary of state.
   “It is the toughest trade agreement out there in the world,” she added. “Can you pick holes in the agreement? Of course, any negotiation there’s a give and take. But frankly the idea that 12 countries have come together and said we’re going to lower tariffs, we’re going to raise labor standards” is positive.
   Protectionist rhetoric by presidential primary candidates such as Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., oversimplifies why U.S. manufacturing has declined and slapping steep taxes on products from Mexico, for example, would be counterproductive, she said.
  “I think there’s a lack of understanding of how integrated our supply chain is and how many products we make together,” Pritzker said of cross-border trade with Mexico.
   Many U.S. companies ship components and sub-assemblies back and forth to partners in Mexico and Canada before the finished product is made in one of the three countries, a process that was made much easier by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the mid-1990s.
   More than 11.5 million jobs depend on exports, and the TPP will help American firms reach the mushrooming middle class in the Asia-Pacific, which is expected to grow from 500 million to 3.2 billion in the next 15 years, Pritzker said.

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