Eddy Hayes, Chairman of the Board of Directors, World Trade Center of New Orleans, and Gary LaGrange, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Port of New Orleans, discuss New Orleans’ role as a key U.S. port city and address opportunities for trade expansion.
As New Orleans approaches her 2018 tricentennial we are reminded of New Orleans’ metamorphosis from accidental trading post to key port city. New Orleans has always been a port city, whether feeding the westward expansion of our nascent country through the Mississippi River, or engaging Caribbean
and European merchants through global markets. Despite the economic challenges created by globalization and the human tragedies wrought by manmade and natural disasters, our raison d’etre remains trade nearly three centuries later. One in five, or 170,200, Louisiana jobs depends on international trade. Louisiana exports doubled from $32 billion in 2009 to over $65 billion in 2014. Our exports have increased an astounding 227 percent in the past decade. In fact, 25 percent of Louisiana’s GDP is from exports, the largest amount ever recorded for any US state and favorably compared with the export powerhouse Germany. Regardless of the metric, Louisiana’s economy depends upon robust international trade.
Congress is currently debating whether to promote international trade by granting the President Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). TPA is the legislative tool by which the President concludes free trade agreements and sends them to Congress for an up or down vote. TPA and free trade are nothing if not controversial. TPA legislation in 2002 passed the U.S. House by a mere three votes. The 1992 TPA extension paved the way for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994. Since NAFTA’s implementation, Louisiana exports to Canada
and Mexico increased by $7.3 billion, an astonishing 848 percent jump.
TPA 2015 is necessary for the United States to conclude the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement negotiations with 11 important Asian and South American countries. Our TPP trading partners account for roughly 40 percent of U.S. GDP. Closer to home, Louisiana exported $17.6 billion in goods to TPP countries in 2014, accounting for 27 percent of our total exports. Erasing tariff and non-tariff barriers in TPP countries will increase opportunities for Louisiana exports. We also believe Louisiana stands to absorb a disproportionate percentage of increased inbound trade from the TPP agreement. TPP countries are in a geographically superior position to move cargo through the expanded Panama Canal. We are working hard to ensure that our Mississippi River system enjoys its share of increased Panama Canal traffic. TPP means business for Louisiana throughout our port system and in value-added manufacturing.
TPA is not moving through this Congress alone. U.S. Congressman Charles Boustany
has fought hard to increase Louisiana’s economic opportunities through TPA and TPP, but also to enhance the safety net for our industries that suffer due to unfair competition. Congressman Boustany’s PROTECT Act is a key part of trade enforcement and facilitation legislation that will ensure our workers and businesses can redress unfair trade practices. Louisiana’s shrimp and crawfish industries are examples of key Louisiana cultural and economic institutions that have been crippled by unfair trade. Congressman Boustany’s legislation provides enhanced trade enforcement as part of the TPA and eventual TPP trade expansion package.
Let’s celebrate New Orleans’ tricentennial by reigniting our historical comparative advantage with 21st Century trade legislation that seeks new opportunities while affording common sense protection.