Congress should ratify the Trans- Pacific Partnership agreement

President Obama’s visit to Vietnam and other Asian countries last week was designed to promote a Pacific trade deal pending in Congress.
President Obama’s visit to Vietnam and other Asian countries last week was designed to promote a Pacific trade deal pending in Congress. AP

If you’re following the 2016 election campaigns, you might be under the impression that international trade is an unmitigated disaster and it’s time for America to turn inwards. But as former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, I know that trade and economic relationships are the foundation for U.S. influence abroad.

So as Congress considers whether to vote on President Obama’s major trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), they should turn off the cable news and consider the cost of inaction, because it is far more significant than you might think.

Recently, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) released its economic impact report on TPP. After an extensive, 6-month, independent review, the report confirms that President Obama’s trade agreement with 11 Pacific Rim countries, representing 40 percent of world GDP, will open new markets, set fair rules of trade, and drive demand for “Made in America” products. But TPP’s benefits reach beyond wage and job gains for the U.S. economy. It also furthers important U.S. interests like higher labor standards, reduced wildlife trafficking, and cooperation to combat climate change.

Access to clean energy technology is a cornerstone to solving the global climate change problem. TPP will boost international adoption of clean energy by cutting tariffs on renewable energy technologies and committing member countries shift to low-emission economies. TPP will eliminate taxes on wind turbines, solar panels, and other renewable energy products: making it cheaper and easier for these growing economies to switch to clean energy and reach their climate change goals.

In an increasingly complex global economy, governments must be empowered to put in place regulations that account for climate change. TPP does this by securing the right of each member country to create laws and regulations in the public interest, like addressing carbon pollution and climate change. Countries need the freedom to take decisive action on climate change and the TPP protects its members rights to do so.

But most importantly, combatting climate change requires leadership. Last year, President Obama led the world to a groundbreaking global climate agreement in Paris.

American leadership, including significant domestic policy achievements like the Clean Power Plan, allowed the United States to bring other major world powers to the table and achieve this landmark deal. TPP is another opportunity to exert American leadership. It fosters strong economic and trade relationships in the fast-growing Asia Pacific region, home to countries responsible for over 25 percent of global carbon emissions. Deepening ties to the region renews U.S. commitment to its Asian allies, and adopting the same standards as its TPP counterparts establishes U.S. credibility as a global leader to advance other international issues, like climate change initiatives.

Climate change is undoubtedly the issue of our time. The actions of this generation will determine the quality of life for generations to come. I have spent my three decade long career in public service working towards a sustainable, clean energy future — helping negotiate the Kyoto Protocol as U.S. ambassador and pushing policy reforms as governor of New Mexico to transform it into the “Clean Energy State”.

TPP takes specific action to support climate change goals and is an opportunity to shape international trade, furthering not only our economic interests, but also our values.

The cost of not ratifying TPP goes beyond the dollar value in the ITC report. If Congress does not take action to pass TPP, we miss the opportunity to lay important groundwork for a green future, be a model for international cooperation, and secure our place as the global steward for climate change action.

Bill Richardson is a former governor of New Mexico and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.