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Bipartisan Task Force Calls for “Pro-America” Trade Policy to Bring Home Benefits of Global Commerce

September 19, 2011

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One of the most effective ways to create good new jobs and reverse the income decline of the past decade is for the United States to “become a thriving trading nation,” concludes a new high-level Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)-sponsored Independent Task Force report on U.S. Trade and Investment Policy.

The report calls for the Obama administration and Congress to “adopt a pro-America trade policy that brings to more Americans more of the benefits of global engagement, within the framework of a strengthened, rules-based trading system.”

The growth of global trade and investment has brought significant benefits to the United States and to the rest of the world. But U.S. leadership on international trade has waned in recent years because of deep domestic political divisions over trade policy that arise largely from the very real economic difficulties too many Americans face, acknowledges the Task Force.

The Task Force warns that the political stalemate “has already harmed U.S. interests and will do more if it remains unresolved.” “Unless the United States develops and sustains a trade policy that yields greater benefits for Americans in job and wage growth, it will be difficult to build the political consensus needed to move forward,” says the report.

The blue-ribbon group is chaired by former chief of staff during the George W. Bush administration and former secretary of transportation Andrew H. Card and former Senate majority leader Thomas A. Daschle, and is directed by CFR Bernard L. Schwartz Senior Fellow Edward Alden and Adjunct Senior Fellow for Business and Globalization Matthew J. Slaughter.

The Task Force represents a consensus among what have historically been divergent views. Twenty-two high-level political, business, and labor leaders make up the Task Force, including former congressman Harold E. Ford Jr.; United Steel Workers leader Leo W. Gerard*; former secretary of agriculture and congressman Daniel R. Glickman; former Senate majority leader Trent Lott; former Caterpillar CEO James W. Owen; former Service Employees International Union leader Andrew L. Stern; former congressman William M. Thomas; and former chair of the Council of Economic Advisers Laura D'Andrea Tyson.

The Task Force calls for a new trade and investment strategy based on seven pillars:

- A trade-negotiations agenda that opens markets for the most competitive U.S.-produced goods and services

- A National Investment Initiative that would coordinate investment policies to create more high-wage, high-productivity jobs in the United States

- A robust and strategic trade enforcement effort that ensures U.S. companies and workers are not harmed by trade agreement violations

- A greater push to promote U.S. exports through more competitive export financing and a more active U.S. government role in supporting American overseas sales

- An expanded use of trade to foster development in the world's poorest countries;

- A comprehensive worker adjustment and retraining policy

- A new deal with Congress to give the president a mandate to negotiate trade-opening agreements with an assurance of timely congressional action

The Task Force recommends that “the administration start by pushing harder for ratification of the three free trade agreements—with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama—still awaiting passage in the Congress.” These delays have already caused the United States to lose its edge in the competition for trade with these countries.

“The United States still has many economic strengths, and a new set of trade and investment policies built on those strengths will pay enormous dividends,” says the report. Yet, even as the United States works to implement these measures “its competitors will not be standing still” the Task Force cautions.

The report is available at www.cfr.org/trade_task_force.

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Task Force Members

Edward Alden, Council on Foreign Relations

Nancy Birdsall, Center for Global Development

James J. Blanchard, DLA Piper LLP

Andrew H. Card, Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University

Thomas A. Daschle, DLA Piper LLP

I. M. (Mac) Destler, University of Maryland; Peterson Institute for International Economics

Harold E. Ford Jr., Morgan Stanley; New York University

Leo W. Gerard*, United Steelworkers

Daniel R. Glickman, Aspen Institute Congressional Program; Bipartisan Policy Center

Robert E. Litan, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation; Brookings Institution

Trent Lott, Patton Boggs LLP

Kevin G. Nealerm, The Scowcroft Group

James W. Owens, Caterpillar Inc.

William F. Owens, University of Denver

Pamela S. Passman, Microsoft Corporation

Matthew J. Slaughter, Council on Foreign Relations; Dartmouth College

Andrew L. Stern, Georgetown University

William M. Thomas, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research

Laura D'Andrea Tyson, University of California, Berkeley

John K. Veroneau, Covington and Burling LLP

Carmencita N. Whonder, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP

Alan Wm. Wolff, Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP

*Gerard participated in the Task Force but did not endorse the final report.

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The Council on Foreign Relations sponsors Independent Task Forces to assess issues of current and critical importance to U.S. foreign policy and provide policymakers with concrete judgments and recommendations. Diverse in backgrounds and perspectives, Task Force members aim to reach a meaningful consensus on policy through private and nonpartisan deliberations. Once launched, Task Forces are independent of CFR and solely responsible for the content of their reports. Task Force members are asked to join a consensus signifying that they endorse “the general policy thrust and judgments reached by the group, though not necessarily every finding and recommendation.” Task Force members also have the option of putting forward an additional or a dissenting view. Members' affiliations are listed for identification purposes only and do not imply institutional endorsement. For more information about CFR Task Forces, contact program director Anya Schmemann at aschmemann@cfr.org.

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