Sen. Tim Kaine

Virginia businesses and farmers rely upon key assets such as the Port of Virginia and Dulles International Airport to export goods and services totaling nearly $38 billion in 2012.

More than 7,600 companies exported from Virginia locations in 2013, more than four-fifths from companies with fewer than 500 employees. In 2014, 11.7 million jobs in the United States were supported by trade, up by 18 percent since 2009. More than 90,000 jobs in Virginia are supported by goods exports. Meanwhile, workers at firms with global and domestic customers earn more than firms with only domestic customers.

Despite this record of success, certain aspects of trade and globalization have not always been helpful to some Virginia industries. As global competition intensifies, many of the textile mills and manufacturing plants Virginia attracted long ago from New England and Michigan have closed or moved to other countries. Former Roanoke Times reporter Beth Macy documented this reality in her book, “Factory Man,” telling the story of how China uses a variety of unfair practices to undercut and even destroy American manufacturing jobs.

But the fact remains — Virginia is a global gateway, and that status is important to me as Congress debates whether to give the president the tools to negotiate more trade deals to cement American leadership in a global economy.

Global trade is a reality. The question is whether the U.S. wants to write the rules for trade or suffer under rules written by others.

We are currently considering whether to grant President Obama the same Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) to negotiate trade deals that has been available to all presidents since 1974. TPA sets out conditions for trade deals and establishes a constructive process for Congress and the public to review and approve any final trade agreement to ensure it truly reflects our goals and values. And the first deal likely to be considered under TPA is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement between the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim nations currently being negotiated by the administration.

All agree that trade, under the right conditions, benefits our economy. The question is whether we can negotiate deals that protect workers’ rights, environmental standards and intellectual property, while knocking down tariffs and other barriers that some countries erect to keep American products out.

If we don’t insist upon high standards, the other dominant global trade actor, China, will be perfectly happy to compete under a low-standard regime that will further damage our economy. After much discussion with labor, agriculture and business leaders, I will support TPA because it gives the U.S. the best chance of elevating the standards for global trade in ways that will level the playing field for our workers, farmers and companies.

My support for TPA is not a blind endorsement of any pending trade negotiation. Once we establish our key principles, I will make sure that the specifics of any final deal are placed before the public and fully debated to see if they meet our standards and help Virginia. We have to make sure that any deal can be enforced and that any workers negatively affected by trade have robust job retraining opportunities. I am pro-trade, but I’m pro-Virginia first. Let’s get this right and grow jobs here at home.

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Tim Kaine represents Virginia in the U.S. Senate. Contact him at (804) 771-2221 and www.kaine.senate.gov/contact.

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