A call for a new trade and competitiveness act

Yesterday, the Center for American Progress (CAP) released a report on Progressive Pro-Growth Principles for Trade and Competitiveness. According to CAP, any new trade agreement needs to address five key areas: currency manipulation; state-owned and state-supported enterprises; investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms; high-road labor and environmental standards; rules of origin. They also point to the need to strengthen enforcement.
This is a good list which recognizes that “trade” is more that just about the movement of goods and services across borders. It is about harmonizing economic rules (see earlier postings).
The report, however, goes on to talk about what else is needed specifically to address our competitiveness challenges. They call for a bill that ties trade and competitiveness together, as we did in the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988. Having worked on that bill, I can vouchsafe that the desire/need to give the Administration trade negotiation authority can be a powerful engine to pull a number of other policies along.
The specific proposals for the competitiveness part of the bill include reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, worker training, investment in infrastructure, and increasing R&D. In addition, the report restates an earlier proposal for a quadrennial National Economic Strategic Assessment. As I’ve commented before, I strongly support this idea. A decade ago, I called for a Commission on the Future of the U.S. Economy to assess our competitiveness and make recommendations. A quadrennial economic assessment would help accomplish the same objective. I would also note that establishment of a quadrennial economic assessment does not need to wait for the passage of legislation. It can be done by executive order.
So while Congress considers CAP’s excellent suggestion of an omnibus trade and competitiveness bill, the President should move ahead with part of that agenda that are already under his control. The quadrennial economic assessment would be a good starting point.

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