Last week, top negotiators from 12 nations including the United States were in Utah to discuss details about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP is a proposed regional, Asia-Pacific free trade agreement currently being negotiated by the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
International trade supports more than 350,000 jobs here in Utah, and that number has steadily risen with the signing of past free trade agreements. These jobs are at companies large and small, in cities and in our rural communities, and support both exports and imports of goods.
In order for Utah and the United States to continue to compete in a global economy, we need to look at the facts. The fact is that more than 95 percent of the world's population and 80 percent of the world's purchasing power live outside the United States, and our farmers, ranchers and businesses deserve to have access to those consumers who want to buy American products and services and agricultural goods.
That's why I've been a longtime advocate of breaking down trade barriers and enhancing our global competitiveness. In the last decade, I've worked with Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama to help approve free trade deals with Colombia, Panama, South Korea and other nations, and we've seen the benefits from those agreements. In fact, according to the Business Roundtable, a pro-growth economic association, more than 3.5 times more goods per capita have been purchased by those in countries that have free trade agreements with our country than those who do not.
If done right, TPP represents another great opportunity not only for Utah, but for the entire country.
In 2011, trade with TPP countries supported more than 140,000 jobs in Utah and represented 20 percent of our state's exports. These economies from throughout the Pacific region represent future consumers of American and Utah products, products like computer hardware and software, dietary supplements and automotive parts and accessories.
Despite the wide bipartisan support for free and fair trade agreements, there are those who fear that free trade agreements are merely an opportunity for corporations to ship jobs overseas.
But those who oppose trade make it sound as if one side wins and the other loses. That is a false premise. Trade is not a zero sum game, and Utah is evidence of that.
As Utah's strong workforce has propelled our state economically, and more goods made in Utah have been sold around the world, we've seen the benefits in our state. Utah isn't a state our residents flee from; it's a place folks flock to.
Our nation as a whole and Utah explicitly wins by tearing down trade barriers. And if we don't work to bring these barriers down, we are putting American jobs at risk, because our international allies are working hard every day to lower them for their people. So to disengage from trade negotiations makes no sense for our nation.
If constructed properly, TPP represents another opportunity to break down these barriers, but the devil is always in the details.
As the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees all international trade matters, you have my commitment to continue to work toward trade agreements that benefit Utah communities, our state's economy, and our country. Much work remains, but the negotiations in Utah represent a strong step forward toward economic prosperity for all.
Orrin Hatch is Utah's senior U.S. senator and the ranking Republican member of the Senate Finance Committee.