What to look for from CPA this year

January 10, 2017

by Michael Stumo

With the election behind us and the new administration in front of us, what can you expect from CPA and its bipartisan membership this year? The short answer is that we will consolidate our trade wins and shoot for more.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is dead, so our campaign to kill it ended in November.

Setting a national goal of balanced trade is a priority for CPA. President-elect Trump made "reducing the trade deficit" a feature issue in his campaign. The Congressional Progressive Caucus, a House Democrat caucus, also supports balancing trade. We'll be working to make that happen.

We will be supporting the Trump administration where it is right and nudging - or criticizing - when it is wrong. While this approach may, at times, look like CPA simply supports Trump, we are taking a similar approach to Democrats like Senator Sherrod Brown as well as the AFL-CIO which pledged to work with Trump on issues like trade where there is agreement.

We will be pushing back against the economic, political and media elites who support the old, failed trade policies and criticize any new approach.  Those elites come from the left - such as the NY Times economics writers - and the right - employees of the Cato Institute and the American Enterprise Institute.  One reason we are in this trade and economic mess is that many of the elites on the left and the right agreed that all free trade and free trade deals are good.

Indeed, CPA Research Director Jeff Ferry recently defended Peter Navarro from press attacks that said trade deficits don't matter. Ferry showed why Navarro is right and the old free traders were wrong.

Wilbur Ross, nominee for Secretary of Commerce, has been on both sides of the trade issue (and the China and TPP issue).  Dr. Peter Navarro, incoming head of the National Trade Council, has been a stalwart on trade reform and we don't expect he will willingly alter course. Bob Lighthizer, nominee for the US Trade Representative, is strong on trade enforcement and China's failures to comply with its WTO commitments. Lighthizer should be a solid voice for pressing our rights under US and international law.

Rolf Lundberg has been tapped as part of the National Trade Council to focus upon Buy American/Hire American programs. While Lundberg comes from the US Chamber of Commerce, I am told that he is solid on trade. Certainly we need to shore up our Buy American programs. The challenge becomes what do you do with trade deals that force exceptions to Buy American?  Those agreements require us to treat Peruvian and South Korean iron, steel and goods as if they are American made for government purchasing purposes.  Is the administration willing to challenge those trade agreement provisions?

CPA Research Associate Jason Cooper has a primer on Buy America/Buy American laws here.

CPA has invested in a new research shop featuring Ferry and Cooper.  Ferry is a seasoned economist and reporter who will further our understanding of how trade policy fails and can succeed.  Cooper focuses upon data collection and analysis so we have a solid factual foundation our trade performance with various countries, in different sectors, in employment, etc. Building a CPA Think Tank is an important next step.

We have tremendous opportunity this year.  We will work to hold Trump to his campaign promises, defend him against the old, wrong free traders, and work with Democrats and Republicans to advance the ball. We will build solid research and data to bolster our efforts.

I need you to continue supporting CPA, to respond to our calls to action and to ask your colleagues to join as well. The reason we are here is that the country changes, and the politicians followed.  We need Democrats to reclaim the trade issue and for Republicans to try to make it their own permanently. We have won before and need to keep winning.

That is the plan.

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