Commerce Department diplomat touts TPP as ‘turning point’ in U.S. trade history

by Wesley Brown ([email protected]) 215 views 

As President Obama travels to Asia to tout the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership, a top Department of Commerce official told a large group of Arkansas business owners on Tuesday that the Pacific Rim trade pact would boost Arkansas’ economy and represented a historic point in U.S. global trade.

“For Arkansas, the difference would be substantial. … It is an important region for your state,” said Judy Rising Reinke, deputy director general of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service for the International Trade Administration. “This is a turning point in our trade history.”

Reinke was the keynote speaker at the 7th Annual Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Global Trade, sponsored by the Arkansas District Export Council at the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock.

In early October, trade ministers from the U.S., Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam met in Atlanta and concluded round-the-clock negotiations for the TPP.

Although the Obama administration has touted and released statements of support for TPP from a number of states and top U.S. companies, including Bentonville-based Wal-Mart Stores, Congress has yet to ratify the measure which the U.S. Department of Agriculture said accounted for 42% of U.S. agricultural exports worth $63 billion to America.

A week ago, the independent U.S. International Trade Commission issued its much-anticipated 787-page report that said, if ratified, the 12-nation trade agreement would likely lift U.S. gross domestic product by a small amount – 0.15%, or $42.7 billion, by 2032 – and increase employment by a net of 128,000 full-time jobs.

Like other TPP supporters who are pushing for Congress to ratify the Obama administration’s most-significant trade pact, Reinke’s presentation included many of the Obama administration’s now-familiar statistics on how it will boost the U.S. economy, including the fact that the Pacific Rim represents more than 40% of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – the combined gross national production of all the countries across the globe.

In her 25-minute speech, Reinke told the roomful of Arkansas business executives and leaders that the TPP will reduce bureaucratic red-tape and burdensome government regulations while reducing tariffs on U.S. products to Asia-Pacific countries and improving transparency and anti-corruption efforts.

“I just tell you the headline. It is not just the tariffs, the fact is it will make business simplified, easier and more straightforward. It adds greater certainty to the U.S. (by) reducing risk for small and medium-size companies,” she said.

Reinke also said the TPP would increase trade to the world’s fastest-growing region and reduce the risk for Arkansas and U.S. companies wanting to do business in countries that are part of the trade agreement.

As part of the Commerce Department, Reinke serves as the chief operating officer of the U.S. government’s top export promotion agency managing its domestic and overseas trade offices.

The career diplomat is the latest high-level Obama administration official to visit Arkansas to promote passage of this historic trade agreement to Arkansas lawmakers and business leaders. In late March, U.S. Trade Ambassador Darci Vetter outlined pros and cons of the 12-nation trade deal during a 90-minute presentation and question-and-answer session at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s William H. Bowen School of Law.

Vetter’s visit was followed a few weeks later by U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s visit to Little Rock on April 15 where he was the guest speaker at the University of Arkansas’ Clinton School of Public Service’s Frank and Kula Kumpuris Distinguished Lecture Series. Vilsack, a top U.S. negotiator on the TPP trade pact, made the case that the trade agreement would eliminate or significantly reduce tariffs on TPP countries that make up more than 40% of all U.S. agriculture exports to the tune of $63 billion annually.

After Reinke’s presentation, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he supported global trade and lowering tariffs on U.S. products to foreign countries, but he stopped short of putting the full weight of his office behind the Obama administration’s signature trade agreement as have governors in several other states.

“I think about the importance of global trade to this state, and as you know my focus has been growing our economy and I am delighted to say that since I became governor we’ve created over 42,000 jobs in Arkansas,” Hutchinson said.

Then, he added jokingly: “And that I take credit for simply because I am governor and governor’s take credit for whatever happens on their watch.”

Following his brief comments, Hutchinson presented the Arkansas District Export Council’s namesake Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Global Trade to the following Arkansas businesses:

• Arkansas Rising Star – Rock Town Distillery Inc.

• Agricultural Export Award – Cobb-Vantress Inc.

• Small Manufacturer Exporter – RH Preyda

• Medium Manufacturer Exporter – CAT Squared

• Large Manufacturer Exporter – Esterline Defense Technologies