I don't often cite the Sierra Club when making policy arguments. However, I appreciated that the liberal environmental group's fact sheet opposing new trade deals suggested that these agreements would increase the use of American coal.
While not their intention, this is an excellent argument in favor of increased trade which would benefit Kentucky.
Kentucky has a diverse economy that is synonymous with certain products including coal, bourbon, and Thoroughbred racehorses.
The Commonwealth is also a powerhouse of manufacturing, producing vehicles such as the Toyota Camry, Ford F-250 Super Duty Truck, and General Motors' Corvette, with a growing expertise in civil aircraft components, which is currently the state's leading export category.
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In order to support jobs in these signature industries and grow our state economy, we must continue to expand into new markets. With more than 95 percent of the world's consumers outside of the U.S., there is significant room for growth.
Currently, the United States is negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with 11 other countries along the Pacific Rim. In order to facilitate trade negotiations like these, for much of the last century Congress has provided trade promotion authority (TPA) to presidents of both parties.
It allows Congress to direct the objectives of trade negotiations at the outset, and approve or disapprove of a final agreement through an up-or-down vote.
Some critics of TPA have implied the bill would remove congressional oversight of negotiations or would give the president the ability to use an agreement as a back-door regulatory scheme to target industries such as coal.
As a member of the Congressional Coal Caucus and an outspoken opponent of the Obama administration's efforts to limit production and use of coal, I am convinced TPA does nothing of the sort.
In fact, it gives me and other members of Congress the best opportunity to ensure coal and other products are not discriminated against during the negotiations.
The bill lays out specific objectives and includes an unprecedented level of consultation and transparency requirements. It preserves the right of Congress to withdraw TPA, and Congress always gets the final say on approving a final agreement.
Many countries involved in the agreement are energy importers and would clamor for exports of coal and liquefied natural gas. They are trying to provide reliable electricity to growing middle classes and our expertise in coal-fired power can help bring communities out of literal darkness.
For example, two years after passage of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Agreement, exports of coal and petroleum products to Columbia were up 101 percent, according to the U.S. trade representative.
America's coal technology is among the cleanest and most efficient in the world, and greater access to foreign markets will ensure we are able to compete for customers on a level playing field with other coal- and power-generation exporters like China and Russia.
So it was disappointing to see Senate Democrats block a vote on the bill earlier this week. Failure to capitalize on this bipartisan policy will harm our export industries and ensure high-skilled, high-wage jobs are created in other countries, rather than at home. We cannot let this opportunity pass us by.