What Is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and Why Does it Matter?

Guest post by Penny Pritzker, U.S. Secretary of Commerce

As secretary of commerce, my job is to create the conditions for American businesses and workers to keep their competitive edge in the 21st-century economy.

American businesses face a world that is more competitive than ever. With modern technology and communications and with greater ease of transportation, national boundaries no longer define the marketplace or limit the reach of workers, consumers or businesses. 

In this global economy, American prosperity is directly tied to our ability to access new markets and reach customers beyond our borders. To ensure that more U.S. firms can sell to the 95 percent of consumers who live overseas, the Obama administration is committed to expanding access to some of the fastest-growing markets in the world through trade agreements. The newly signed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is critical to growing the American economy and supporting good-paying jobs at home.

The TPP will enable U.S. businesses to compete on a level playing field by eliminating more than 18,000 tariffs on American-made products sold overseas, while defining the highest standards on labor, the environment and the digital economy ever to be included in a trade agreement. With this transformational trade agreement, we can expand U.S. exports, support even more high-paying American jobs, and strengthen the hand of American workers in the global economy.

Currently, our American companies, both large and small, face barriers to access in foreign markets that impede our economic growth. The TPP eliminates red tape by creating efficient and transparent customs procedures that help move goods quickly through borders. The TPP also supports paperless trading and the use of e-customs forms, as well as the use of electronic authentication and signatures.

The TPP will set the standards for the 21st-century economy by promoting digital trade and e-commerce. The agreement prohibits the tariffs on digital products, such as software and e-books. Additionally, the TPP protects against requirements that force businesses to locate physical infrastructure in the markets in which they seek to operate. All of these aspects enhance the ability of small businesses to access global markets through ever-growing digital platforms.  

TPP markets are already important to Tennessee businesses, with nearly 56 percent of Tennessee’s goods exports going to TPP partners in 2014. Total Tennessee goods exported to TPP markets reached $18.3 billion last year, including $1.7 billion to Japan, $141 million to Vietnam, and $91 million to Malaysia.

Once implemented, TPP will strengthen Tennessee companies by lowering the costs of doing business in these markets and ensuring fair treatment for Tennessee businesses. TPP will eliminate foreign import taxes on all industrial and consumer goods, including Tennessee’s top exports to new TPP markets: health products, automotive products and chemicals.

As America’s business leaders, you have an important role to play in strengthening our commercial ties globally, and improving the business climate both at home and abroad. As a CEO at heart, I ask you to make the case for TPP in your communities, in your states and nationwide.

The future of our country depends on our willingness to work together to make key investments in trade and exports.


Antwaun Griffin, deputy assistant secretary for U.S. operations for the U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration, visited Nashville to discuss the anticipated impact of TPP to the region. Joined by Bailey Leopard of FedEx, Don Stacy of Quality Filtration, Thad McBride with Bass, Berry and Sims and Consul General of Japan Masami Kinefuchi, the group offered an update on the ongoing process to ratify the trade deal. For more information on the TPP's impact on Tennessee, click here.

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