Alexander, Corker back Obama on fast-track trade agreements

The Obama administration is pushing hard for Congress to approve a trade promotion bill that would allow for fast-track approval of trade agreements with other countries and Tennessee’s two U.S. senators are among Republicans backing him on the effort, reports Michael Collins.

The White House says fast-track is crucial to completing new trade agreements with Pacific nations and the European Union that will open up markets for billions of dollars’ worth of U.S. goods.

For once, many congressional Republicans agree.

“Of course I do,” U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Maryville Republican, said recently when asked if he favors granting President Barack Obama fast-track, or Trade Promotion Authority, to negotiate such deals.

Tennesseans certainly know the benefits of being able to trade freely with other countries, Alexander said.

Exports from Tennessee companies hit a record $33 billion last year, with the state’s merchandise flowing into markets such as Canada ($9.1 billion), Mexico ($4.8 billion), China ($2.3 billion), Japan ($1.7 billion) and Belgium ($1.2 billion).

“Look at the soybeans Tennessee farmers sell to Asia, the auto parts Tennessee workers sell in Asia and Europe, and the medical devices from Memphis and Nashville sold around the world,” Alexander said. “In return, Tennessee has attracted companies from around the world that sell their products in the U.S. and abroad.”

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker also supports Trade Promotion Authority, which he says is key to securing strong agreements with foreign trading partners.

“Transformative trade agreements with Europe and Asia will enhance our nation’s security and hold the potential to generate significant economic growth in the U.S. by expanding foreign markets for U.S. companies and increasing foreign investment here at home,” Corker said.