Congress plays a major role in formulating and implementing U.S. trade policy through its legislative and oversight responsibilities. Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress has the authority to regulate foreign commerce, while the President has the authority to conduct foreign relations. In 2015, Congress reauthorized Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) that( 1) sets trade policy objectives for the President to negotiate in trade agreements; (2) requires the President to engage with and keep Congress informed of negotiations; and (3) provides for Congressional consideration of legislation to implement trade agreements on an expedited basis, based on certain criteria. The United States is considering the recently-concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) among the United States and 11 other countries. The 12 TPP countries signed the agreement in February 2016, but the agreement must be ratified by each country before it can enter into force. In the United States this requires implementing legislation by Congress.
The agreement is viewed by the participants as a “comprehensive and high standard” mega- regional free trade agreement that may hold the promise of greater economic opportunities and closer economic and strategic ties among the negotiating parties.
For Members of Congress and others, international trade and trade agreements may offer the prospect of improved national economic welfare. Such agreements, however, have mixed effects on U.S. domestic and foreign interests, both economic and political. In considering the TPP, Congress likely will examine various economic studies to assess the impact of the agreement on the economy. The results of these studies vary depending on the model and the assumptions that are used to generate the results. The U.S. International Trade Commission is tasked with providing the official U.S. government estimate of the economic effects of the agreement. This report provides an analysis of various studies and information on the types of economic models that are used to assess the impact of trade agreements and the importance of the assumptions that are used in generating these estimates.
Estimating the employment effects from a trade agreement is imprecise because (1) estimates can vary widely as a result of the model and assumptions that are used; (2) limitations arise from the types of data available, particularly concerning non-tariff barriers; and (3) it is difficult to disentangle the effects of trade and trade agreements from other factors that affect the U.S. economy, among other things.
This report analyses some studies of the economic impact of TPP that are playing an important role in affecting the public policy debate, including the following:
- U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC): estimated the TPP would increase annual U.S. GDP by 0.15%, and trade by 1.0% by 2032; U.S. annual employment would be higher by 128,000.
- Peter A. Petri and Michael G. Plummer (Peterson Institute for International Economics) estimated that the TPP would increase annual GDP by 0.5% and increase U.S. exports by 9.0% by 2030.
- World Bank: estimated the TPP would increase U.S. GDP by 0.5% by 2030.
- Tufts University, Global Development and Environment Institute study by Jeronim Capaldo and Alex Izurieta: estimated that all TPP participants would lose 770,000 jobs and non-TPP developing economies would lose 4.5 million jobs.
- Other studies that use such proxy indicators as trade balances and jobs associated with exports to assess the impact of the TPP.