President Barack Obama on June 29 signed into law a bill giving him fast-track authority to complete a sweeping transpacific free-trade agreement with 11 other nations in the coming months.
The new law also grants the President the power to present that deal to Congress for a yes-or-no vote without an opportunity to amend the terms of the pact.
The White House hopes to complete an agreement this year on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would create a free-trade zone stretching from Japan to Chile that includes 40% of the global economy. A separate accord is also in the works with the 28-member-nation European Union—the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP)—but those talks are not as far along.
Industry officials say the two trade agreements would help facilitate a surge in U.S. chemical exports and boost economic growth and domestic job creation. The chemical sector surpassed $190 billion in exports in 2014, making it one of the nation’s largest exporters.
“The future looks even brighter,” says Calvin M. Dooley, chief executive officer of the American Chemistry Council, an industry trade group. “We estimate total chemical exports could expand nearly 8% per year through 2019 to $282 billion, while exports could double by 2030.”
On the basis of 2013 chemical exports, more than half of the top 20 export markets are currently a part of TPP or TTIP negotiations.
The U.S. chemical industry also has more to gain in tariff reduction from the planned U.S.-EU agreement than any other manufacturing sector, says William E. Allmond IV, vice president of the Society of Chemical Manufacturers & Affiliates, a trade association for specialty chemical makers. If the pact is approved, “the industry would save more than $1 billion annually in eliminated tariffs,” he says.
Congress approved the so-called trade promotion authority bill in late June after months of contentious debate and several close votes. Republicans overwhelmingly supported the legislation, but most Democrats, reflecting strong opposition by labor unions, opposed it.