Op-Ed: Eyeing $570 million middle-class consumers in the Asia-Pacific region

Jun232015

OPINION EDITORIAL
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Chicago's Garrett Popcorn is a local institution whose flavored snacks have been enjoyed by Chicagoans and visitors for more than 65 years. Recently, the chain was recognized for something more than its unique combination of sweet CaramelCrisp and savory CheeseCorn flavors: the success the company has achieved selling its popcorn to overseas customers.

Garrett Popcorn and 44 other American companies received the 2015 President's "E" Award, a distinction given by the president to U.S. businesses that made significant contributions to our country's exports.

Some of the recipients are household names. Others are smaller firms like Garrett Popcorn, which opened its first overseas store in Hong Kong in 2011.
 
Increasing U.S. exports is a top priority for the Obama administration. America's private sector made 2014 a fifth consecutive record year for exports, selling $2.34 trillion in goods and services to overseas markets. Exports also supported 11.7 million private sector jobs in 2014, an all-time high. Illinois' merchandise exports totaled $68.2 billion last year, supporting more than 339,000 U.S. jobs.
Markets for American products are no longer just around the corner but across the globe. For example, the Asia-Pacific region is home to 570 million middle-class consumers; by 2030, that number is expected to reach 3.2 billion.
No smart business owner would ignore such a massive customer base.
One way to keep our businesses competitive, our economy growing and our global economic leadership intact is through free-trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
 
This agreement will secure fair access to the Asia-Pacific region — the world's fastest-growing consumer base — while raising standards on labor, environmental protection, intellectual property rights and more. This will be the most progressive trade agreement in history and will strengthen the competitiveness of U.S. businesses.
This deal will give American firms a leg up in an increasingly interconnected 21st century global economy. To complete this pact and others like it, Congress must pass trade promotion legislation, which establishes a process to negotiate new trade deals.

The measure currently under consideration outlines congressional priorities for the Obama administration to follow on these agreements. The passage of trade promotion legislation is critical to the completion and implementation of deals that will level the playing field for American businesses and workers.

 
Penny Pritzker is the U.S. secretary of commerce.

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Last updated: 2015-10-02 18:16

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