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Let’s talk trade

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker visited Seoul and Tokyo last week on a business development mission to promote trade in Asia and seek new opportunities for American businesses.

A Commerce Department press release said the trip was designed to “focus on reinforcing trade agreements that reflect our values, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS), that will help U.S. firms gain greater access to the Japan and South Korea markets.”

To that end, while in Asia the secretary challenged our allies to be bolder in opening their markets.

10212014_Asset_v2It occurs to me her case would be strengthened if the United States would take the same approach and show a bold commitment to free trade from Washington.

The best way to do that would be for the Obama administration to loosen arbitrary restrictions on the export of crude oil and liquefied natural gas. Washington should treat these commodities no differently from pharmaceuticals, agricultural products, automobile parts, or any of the myriad other items American companies export.

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that expanded global trade in energy products would benefit American consumers, as well as add to international energy security.

Just last week the U.S. Government Accountability Office unveiled the latest study confirming that removing the ban on crude oil exports will greatly benefit the country. The GAO could not have been clearer: “Removing export restrictions is expected to increase the size of the economy, with implications for employment, investment, public revenue, and trade.”

That analysis reaches conclusions similar to those offered by a host of experts, including the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank, IHS Consulting, the Council on Foreign Relations, ICF International and the Aspen Institute.   A Washington Post editorial stated that scrapping the crude oil exports ban would be “an unambiguous win for the country.”

The same goes for lifting restrictions (in the form of unnecessary regulatory delays) on LNG exports. Study after study – including one commissioned by the Obama Administration’s energy department – has concluded that encouraging American exports of LNG would give our economy a needed boost.

In the wake of Sec. Pritzker’s tour of Seoul and Tokyo, it’s worth recalling that representatives from a number of Asian nations – including Japan and South Korea – have previously made a point to encourage the U.S. to liberalize its policies with respect to trade in energy products.

If we are going to challenge our allies to be bolder in opening their markets, it would be helpful for the secretary to let our allies know we have heard their requests and recognize that energy security in Asia can help strengthen stability throughout the world.


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