Free trade agreements benefit Ga. firms

Steve Ansul/NewsArt

Steve Ansul/NewsArt

Moderated by Rick Badie

A transatlantic trade agreement between the U.S. and European Union may bode well for Georgia businesses that seek global expansion. Today, two guest writers outline potential economic benefits for both sides of the Atlantic if the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations are successful. Elsewhere, a policy analyst writes about the importance of free trade agreements. Finally, a regional economic official writes about the “LINK” delegation’s trip to Philadelphia.

Trade agreement unlocks doors

By Danny Lopez and David Abney

The United States and the European Union are the two biggest economies in the world. Together, they account for about around a third of global economic output and 40 percent of trade. That means the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the EU and U.S. will be unprecedented in scale, scope and ambition. It represents an opportunity for the largest bilateral trade agreement in the world.

The British-American Business Council’s annual conference will be held May 20-22 in Atlanta. The theme — “Building Platforms for Growth and Success” — seems well-suited to exploring the goals of the trade partnership.

Georgia is an important trading partner between the U.S. and the U.K. There are more than 200 British companies in Georgia with almost 900 facilities in the state. About 60,000 people in Georgia work for British firms, making Britain the state’s second-largest foreign investor and job supporter. British companies have $6.6 billion invested in the state’s economy.

It’s not just UK companies that stand to gain from the trade agreement. The same applies to the many Georgia-headquartered companies that have active UK operations, including Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines, UPS and Airwatch.

The European Commission estimates passage of an agreement could boost overall trade between the two regions by as much as 50 percent. U.S. companies ship daily more than $730 million in goods to the EU., which has half a billion consumers. In Georgia alone, the trade agreement could boost exports to Europe by nearly a third.

One of the best things about the trade agreement is that its benefits are balanced on both sides of the Atlantic. Both the U.S. and the EU will see a boost in exports and new jobs.

For example, Cellairis of Atlanta is the world’s largest franchiser of wireless accessories such as phone cases, screen protectors and armbands. Cellairis develops products in Georgia, manufactures them in Asia, imports them back to Georgia by air freight, warehouses them in its distribution center in Alpharetta, and then ships them by ground and air to franchisees worldwide.

Like Cellairis, British brewer Fuller Smith & Turner Plc. has a thriving business in its domestic market. Both companies want to expand business by entering new markets and expanding global trade. But existing guidelines and restrictions often frustrate and impede trade more than they facilitate it.

But tariffs, along with customs fees,regulations and excessive documentation requirements, are impediments that slow the efficient and affordable flow of goods and services.

In today’s highly competitive global marketplace, even minor shipping delays or small increases in a product’s cost due to tariffs can mean the difference between satisfying or frustrating a customer. The trade agreement could remove a number of roadblocks and unlock opportunities on both sides of the Atlantic.

The fifth round of trade agreement negotiations is scheduled this month in Arlington, Va. The outcome is crucial to the economies of the U.S. and Europe. It’s not overstating to say the agreement could be a game-changer for both international commerce and for Georgia-based companies, large and small. Our hope is that the U.S. and EU officials will bring negotiations to a successful conclusion.

Danny Lopez is director general of UK Trade & Investment USA and consul general at the British Consulate in New York. David Abney is chief operating officer for UPS.

Free trade agreements benefit Ga. job creators

By Benita Dodd

Georgia businesses have just broken their own record. Thanks largely to booming sales of aircraft components, companies exported $37.6 billion worth of goods last year, up by well over a billion dollars from the previous high the year before.

The export sector has been a source of excellent news for a state still recovering from the Great Recession and struggling with joblessness. But the state’s global commercial reach could be even greater. Many countries still erect barriers to keep some American products from competing on a level playing field.

The solution: Negotiate tough trade agreements with countries blocking U.S. goods and services. To do that, however, requires congressional authority for the president’s negotiators to cut deals that open markets.

From the 1930s through the first decade of this century, every American president has enjoyed Trade Promotion Authority. TPA outlines the goals the Congress wants the president to pursue in negotiations. It requires the president to consult with Congress as negotiations unfold. It sets procedures for Congress to vote up or down on an agreement without amendment.

The authority doesn’t let the president impose his will unilaterally. Congress sets the framework for an agreement, shapes it as it’s being made, and retains the right to reject the final product. The authority assures our negotiators and their foreign counterparts that Congress will vote on the agreement as negotiated and won’t try to rewrite it through amendments.

Trade Promotion Authority expired in 2007. Congress has not renewed it. It is time to do so. It is no exaggeration to say that the future prosperity of our country – and our state – is on the line.

Free-trade agreements have benefited Georgia job creators. The state’s exports to Canada and Mexico rose 363 percent after the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect. Our exports to Singapore soared 438 percent since the 2004 U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement. When the United States signed an agreement with Australia, motor-vehicle exports skyrocketed from $4 million to $209 million. Trade supports 1.2 million jobs in Georgia.

Yet many countries still erect barriers to our products. Georgia companies face tariffs of up to 50 percent when they export golf carts to Malaysia, up to 30 percent on nuts and frozen chicken cutlets in Vietnam, and 10 percent when they send carpets to New Zealand.

Some have voiced concerns that more foreign competition will put Americans out of work. This perspective, however, misunderstands the nature of trade flows. More than three-fifths of U.S. imports aren’t actually completed products. They are inputs, or raw materials, that American companies need to run their businesses.

Savings from imports have a tremendous effect on consumers, too. Trade and investment liberalization policies save the average family of four more than $10,000 a year by helping lower prices for everything from TVs to computers to toys, according to the Business Roundtable.

Free and fair trade agreements are a good deal for Americans and Georgians.

Benita Dodd is vice president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

LINK helps us compete

By Kerry Armstrong

We live in one of the 10 largest and most economically powerful regions in the U.S. Metro Atlanta’s business and elected leaders know it’s up to them to keep the region’s economy moving in the right direction. To do this, they must collaborate and bring home successful ideas from around the country.

That is what the Atlanta Regional Commission’s annual LINK trip is all about. LINK (Leadership, Involvement, Networking, Knowledge) takes some of the region’s most influential leaders from the public, private and nonprofit sectors to visit metropolitan areas around the country.

LINK destinations are chosen based on their size and challenges relative to Atlanta. Denver and Seattle more closely mirror the Atlanta area in terms of size than, say, New York or Los Angeles. City selection is sometimes based on specific challenges critical to the host and metro Atlanta. For example, Atlanta and Phoenix, the 2010 destination, share significant water concerns.

The LINK program gives our leaders the opportunity to talk candidly with their hosts about how they approach issues such as traffic congestion, economic development and education. This exchange is very valuable.

Last year in Houston, LINK participants heard from Houston’s mayor, the director of the Port of Houston and panels on education, diversity, transportation, parks, arts and other topics. Atlanta leaders were particularly interested in how the Great Houston Partnership approaches economic development and achieves its cooperative spirit. A second project of interest was a public opinion survey Houston has conducted annually for more than 30 years. That idea came back to metro Atlanta as Metro Atlanta Speaks, a regionwide survey ARC released at its 2013 State of the Region breakfast. Planning for the 2014 survey is now underway.

In 17 years, LINK has visited 15 different cities. The 2014 delegation travels to Philadelphia this week. Philadelphia was chosen because it has a thriving economy supported by innovation and entrepreneurship. Participants will also explore Philadelphia’s unique community development approaches, including the Philadelphia Mural Arts program. The delegation promises to return with fresh ideas and a broader perspective on how to maintain metro Atlanta’s global competitiveness.

To remain economically competitive, the Atlanta region must have a talented and educated workforce. Businesses must succeed and grow. Communities must be livable and attractive to young and old. That means we must work with each other to develop and implement strategies that will keep us moving toward our vision. LINK sparks the creative thinking we need to keep the Atlanta region performing at the top of its game.

Kerry Armstrong is chairman of the Atlanta Regional Commission.

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