Croom: Kaine's pro-trade leanings should be embraced, not shunned

ARLINGTON

As a mayor, governor and senator Tim Kaine has seen the day-to-day impact of policy on his constituents at every level of government. So it makes sense that, as recently as the day before he was picked to be Hillary Clinton’s running mate, Kaine supported a free-trade policy that would bring jobs across America, from our smallest towns to our largest cities. Unfortunately, to toe the line with his running mate’s opposition, Kaine has been forced to rescind his support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

This move is not a surprise to anyone following the visionless TPP-bashing that has escalated from both parties throughout this election cycle. But Kaine’s on-the-ground experiences, coupled with his big-picture understanding of international policy, were clearly the foundations of his historical support for trade. To better understand Kaine’s support for the TPP, it is important to look at how free trade has helped — and would continue to help — his home state of Virginia.

A recent study conducted by the Business Roundtable revealed that international trade accounts for 1,135,500 of Virginia’s jobs — that’s one in four. Free trade agreements (FTAs) are a critical part of this equation. These jobs are not created without the elimination of tariffs and other barriers FTAs create. In fact, $7 billion (40 percent) of Virginia’s exported goods go to countries with whom the U.S. has a free-trade partnership. These numbers are just the tip of the iceberg when looking at Virginia’s trade potential under the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

From soybeans and poultry to chemical and technology exports, Virginia’s industries will feel the positive effects of the TPP. The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) predicts substantial gains for Virginia agriculture. A 2016 report from the NASDA predicts 350 additional agriculture jobs for Virginia with an increase of $46.9 million in agricultural exports to TPP nations.

What’s more, Virginia’s forest products, textile/apparel and health goods, all currently subjected to import taxes between 35 percent and 100 percent when exported, will be nearly duty-free under the TPP. This translates into a huge potential for growth for these industries.

Governor Terry McAuliffe has not been shy about his support for the deal, too. In November, he called it “the largest expansion of labor rights in history.” Last week, McAuliffe grabbed headlines after implying to Politico that Hillary Clinton would likely support the TPP after she’s elected. While he has since rescinded his statements, the governor has doubled down on his own support for advancing the agreement as the president’s top priority for his remaining time in office.

In Kaine’s final pro-TPP comments, given to the blog The Intercept, he laid out his justifications for supporting the agreement. “I am having discussions with groups around Virginia about the treaty itself. I see much in it to like. I think it’s an upgrade of labor standards. I think it’s an upgrade of environmental standards, I think it’s an upgrade in intellectual property protections,”

Kaine is right. Creating uniformity of business standards with our TPP peers, some of our largest trading partners, will spur significant economic growth nationally and internationally. The American Farm Bureau Federation estimates $4.4 billion in market growth for America’s farmers under the TPP. All in all, over 18,000 taxes on Made-in-America goods and services would be eliminated under the TPP. This means room to grow for American exporters — 98 percent of which are small- to medium-sized businesses.

Kaine might have switched his stance on the TPP to assuage internal unrest within the Democratic Party, but there is no doubt that his own words, and the facts, outline why the Trans-Pacific Partnership will push our nation forward.

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Ainsley Shea