Big Business Says U.S. Must Expand Global Trade Pacts

A Trans-Pacific Partnership offers 'the best chance' for the U.S. to tap 'into the world's most exciting and lucrative markets,' says Chamber of Commerce.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Nov. 9 urged Washington to expand its global free trade links further by negotiating market-opening agreements with countries such as Brazil, Egypt and India.

Trade with the rest of the world can be an "antidote" to the weak domestic economy and create hundreds of thousands of jobs without raising taxes, said Thomas Donohue, CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce.

Congress recently approved free trade agreements (FTAs) with South Korea, Colombia and Panama after long delays, but Donohue told business executives more such deals are needed.

Washington "needs to quickly follow up the completion of our recent free trade agreements by negotiating new deals with additional partners," he said on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.

"Given their economic prospects and geopolitical importance, Brazil, Egypt, and India are all countries named by chamber members as potential FTA partners," he said.

"In each case, a great deal of work would need to be done before negotiations could even begin. So lets get started."

The United States is involved in negotiations with eight other economies for an agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which could lead to the creation of free trade zone spanning both sides of the Pacific Ocean.

"The most urgent issue on our APEC agenda is advancing an aggressive and bold trade agenda. We start from a simple premise -- trade is not an optional luxury, it is an economic imperative," Donohue said.

TPP offers "the best chance" for the U.S. to tap "into the world's most exciting and lucrative markets," he said.

"The fact is, we are already behind the eight ball in Asia," he said.

"While our trade is up, the U.S. share of Asias international trade has actually declined by 9% since 1990, as Asian nations have negotiated preferential trading agreements among themselves."

Critics of free trade agreements, including some labor unions, counter that such deals have benefited large corporations at the expense of workers and hastened the decline of the manufacturing sector.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011

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