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NTU Supports an Up-or-Down Vote on Pending Free Trade Agreements

June 6, 2011

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

Recently, members of your administration have said that the passage of three pending free trade agreements (FTAs) must be linked with the renewal of the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program. With the economic recovery showing signs of weakening, passage of the free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea would provide a much-needed remedy and should not be made conditional on the passage of a wasteful and expensive jobs program.

Trade is a vital part of the U.S. economy and will necessarily assume a key role in its resurgence. Despite the recent recession, the free trade agreements to which the U.S. is a party have helped us remain the world’s largest exporter. Although the 17 partner nations covered under these FTAs represent only 7.5 percent of the world’s non-U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), they purchase on average more than 40 percent of U.S. exports. Through similar demonstrations of their market expanding power, the pending FTAs can grow the trade-related jobs base that already employs 38 million Americans – or more than one in five in the United States.

The trade pacts would also provide a significant boost to America’s exporters, by way of reduced tariffs, and for taxpayers, in the form of lower prices and more jobs. The latest illustration of the vital link between economic growth and liberalized trade appears in a report by the U.S. International Trade Commission which found that approval of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement would increase GDP by $11 billion annually and add 70,000 American jobs.

Time and again, the evidence has shown that taxpayers and consumers are the winners from more open trade, but these benefits are undermined by the misguided policy of Trade Adjustment Assistance. By creating a nonsensical distinction between jobs supposedly displaced by foreign imports and those lost from other forms of competition, such as technology or changing consumer tastes, the TAA program perpetuates the myth that international trade negatively impacts the economy. Furthermore, with a price-tag of roughly $2.4 billion, the program imposes a heavy burden on taxpayers without delivering positive results for the economy. In fact, assessments from both the Office of Management and Budget and Government Accountability Office have raised serious doubts about the program’s effectiveness with scarce taxpayer dollars.

With the economy languishing and unemployment stubbornly high, a prudent and practical response is to jump-start trade through passage of the Panama, Colombia and South Korea free trade agreements, not add to our deficit by continuing counterproductive Trade Adjustment Assistance. Please support the American taxpayer - support the up-or-down vote the free trade agreements deserve.

Brandon Greife
Federal Government Affairs Manager

108 North Alfred Street Ø  Alexandria, Virginia 22314  Ø  Phone: (703) 683-5700  Ø  Fax: (703) 683-5722  Ø Web: