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Trade Policy in the Western Hemisphere: A Statement of Principles

September 22, 2016

Trade issues are always sensitive in the United States, never more so than in election years. Moreover, since the Cold War ended, consensus support for trade expansion as a strategic issue has largely been overtaken by domestic considerations, favoring entrenched groups, industries, and practices, and emphasizing the concentrated costs of economic shifts over larger but more generalized benefits. During times of economic stress, trade becomes an easy political target for those seeking a new direction, although technological changes are in fact at the root of recent economic transformations. Trade itself is in reality a tool that expands opportunity, grows the economy, and broadly improves quality of life.

When economic disruptions occur, they must be met head-on through improved social safety strategies and a genuine concern for those who have been negatively impacted. But if we want to grow our economy, expand consumption, increase investment and capital formation, build competitiveness and productive capacity, and encourage cutting-edge innovation, there is no alternative to opening foreign markets to allow U.S. enterprises and entrepreneurs to sell to the 95 percent of global consumers who live outside our borders. Beyond economic considerations, trade is also a critical component of U.S. foreign policy and one of the best instruments that we have to promote our values and interests around the world.

Ultimately, cooperation across the Americas abounds. The U.S. has a robust relationship with our neighbors and indicators affirm the importance of intra-hemispheric trade to our economic wellbeing. Critics of freer trade and agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) should be pressed on the alternative: what is their plan to expand the U.S. economy and how exactly will defeating the TPP promote such a vision? Absent a compelling rationale, the Trade Advisory Group supports timely passage of the TPP and a greater focus on hemispheric trade expansion.

In this spirit, the Trade Advisory Group of the Council of the Americas offers Trade Policy in the Western Hemisphere: A Statement of Principles.

For more information on the Trade Advisory Group, please contact COA Director of Government Relations Kezia McKeague at