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FACT SHEET: Values Driving U.S. Trade Policy

The Obama Administration is committed to a trade policy that provides new opportunities for workers and that supports economic growth by opening markets, enforcing our agreements, and leveling the playing field for our workers.  The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP), and other negotiations offer new opportunities to advance this agenda, consistent with American interests and American values, including putting labor and environmental protections at the core of trade policy and protecting and promoting innovation. 


Rising Exports Support Recovery.  Since 2009, U.S. exports have risen by $694 billion, providing a third of America’s economic growth.  Private-sector employment is up by 8.5 million since February 2011, with manufacturing employment up for four straight years and R&D jobs at an all-time high; the number of exporting companies has risen from 276,000 to 302,000; and the count of jobs supported by exports, which pay wages 13-18 percent above average, has grown by 1.3 million.  The export share of GDP (13.5 percent) is at the highest level ever measured. 

Obama Trade Agenda Boosts Growth and Jobs.  President Obama’s agenda includes concluding negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement, elimination of tariffs on information technology products and environmental goods, and liberalization of trade in services.  These will help American workers, farmers, artists, and businesses gain more open access to two-thirds of the world economy.   Our TPP and T-TIP partners make up a market likely to grow by $6.7 trillion by 2018; they are the source of 84 percent of FDI in the United States, employing nearly 5 million Americans; they already buy 60 percent of U.S. exports.  Trade policy can and should help make America the global production platform of choice. 


Enforceable Fundamental Labor Standards.  The President has always made clear that he will only support trade agreements that include fully enforceable labor standards, which we are pursuing in TPP.

Groundbreaking Protections for Children and Stronger Labor Rights.  TPP will offer new tools to fight exploitative child labor and forced labor, deter employment discrimination, and will embed fundamental labor standards in our trade agreement with Mexico and Canada.  Respect for ILO standards and enforcement of domestic labor laws will be cornerstones of TPP, including through commitments to protect the freedom to form unions and bargain collectively, as well as new commitments regarding acceptable working conditions, such as maximum hours of work and safe workplaces.


Enforceable Environmental Protections. The Administration will insist on a robust environment chapter in the TPP agreement that is as fully enforceable as the commercial aspects of the agreement.  This includes commitments centered around the enforcement of  environmental laws, including those implementing multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), in TPP countries.

New Protections for Oceans, Forests, and Species.   Through TPP, the Administration is taking on environmental challenges such as illegal logging and wildlife trafficking (estimated at $17 billion and $2.5 billion respectively in the Asia-Pacific), shark finning, fishery subsidies and others. 

Promoting Clean Technologies: President Obama’s policies are lowering the cost of environmental protection and spurring new innovation in clean technologies.  The United States led an agreement in APEC to lower tariffs on exports of environmental goods, and is preparing to launch new negotiations on environmental goods at the WTO, potentially covering nearly $1 trillion in environmental goods trade. 


21st Century Digital Policies: The Obama administration sees a free and open Internet at the center of America’s economic future.  The United States is the world’s leader in services trade with nearly $700 billion in exports and a $230 billion trade surplus.  TPP and T-TIP will seek to address barriers to cross-border data flows to ensure the free flow of information across borders to the benefit of consumers around the world.   

Promoting and Protecting Innovation and Creativity Through Intellectual Property (IP).  Nearly 30 million Americans work in IP-intensive industries.  We are promoting balanced IP protection including copyright limitations and exceptions and safe harbors for internet providers.  Nothing in TPP will go beyond existing U.S. law.  We are also working to address new issues like cyber-theft of trade secrets and threats to consumer health and safety, like counterfeit medicines.

Providing Access to Medicines for the World’s Poor While Promoting the Development of New Life-Saving Drugs.  In TPP, we are proposing a “differentiated approach” for pharmaceutical IP protections taking into account countries’ individual levels of development while ensuring that the incentives remain in place for pharmaceutical innovation. 


More Seats at the Table, More Voices in the Process.  The Obama Administration has increased diversity in USTR’s advisory system and conducted unprecedented outreach through public sessions at negotiations.  We invite representatives of all constituencies to apply.  In addition, we are creating a new Public Interest Trade Advisory Committee (PITAC) to join the Labor Advisory Committee and the Environment Advisory Committee to provide a cross-cutting platform for input into negotiations.

Strong Consultation and New Transparency Measures.  The Obama Administration has briefed Congress on TPP negotiations more than 1,150 times.  This will continue with increased engagement with stakeholders and a new commitment to provide status updates on negotiations.  As always, any Member of Congress can view negotiating text. 


Time for Congress to Update Its Instructions to the Executive Branch on Trade.  Congress has not updated its trade guidance since 2002.  TPA as it stands today does not include the May 10 agreement on labor, the environment and access to medicines or new issues like e-commerce and state-owned enterprises.  

Securing the Best Possible Deal for American Workers.  No agreement can go into effect without Congress’s approval, and the Obama Administration is eager for Congress to provide a blueprint for consultations, outcomes, and processes. Passage of TPA will ensure the Administration’s ability to secure the best possible deal for the American worker, and fulfil Congress’s obligation to guide trade policy.