Texas is the top exporter in the country, a title our state has held for 14 consecutive years.
That is why the recent anti-trade rhetoric on the presidential campaign trail is concerning.
As a Texan and a representative of technology businesses in the region, I know firsthand the importance of trade and how trade agreements — like the Trans-Pacific Partnership — are crucial to helping local exporters and workers thrive.
To be clear, Texas’ position as the top exporter in the country is a distinction worth having. In 2014, Texas exported $337 billion in goods and services.
Workers too have skin in the game when it comes to increasing international trade. Trade supports 3.2 million jobs in Texas, and employment tied to trade has increased 150 percent faster than overall employment since 2004.
These are also the type of jobs Texans need — workers in export-intensive industries are paid about 16 percent more on average than peers in other industries.
It is no surprise then that Texas’ leading role in trade has helped the state’s own tech giants like Dell, AT&T, Rackspace and National Instruments thrive.
It has also led innovative start-ups and technology leaders like Google, Apple, Amazon, Oracle and Facebook to make major investments in Texas.
American technological innovation is one of our most valuable assets for customers overseas, and the Lone Star State is a key economic driver. In total, Texas exported $46.6 billion worth of manufactured tech goods in 2014, the highest total among all states.
In today’s increasingly interconnected world, where more than 95 percent of the world’s population and 80 percent of its purchasing power are outside the United States, the opportunities for our technology companies are stronger than ever.
That is why we need trade deals like TPP.
TPP was negotiated between the United States and 11 Pacific Rim trading partners. Among these partners are some of the fastest-growing economies in the world, and collectively these countries represent nearly 40 percent of global GDP.
Without trade deals, Texas exporters face prohibitively high tariffs that place them at a disadvantage in these marketplaces.
But TPP goes further than just eliminating burdensome tariffs.
The deal streamlines unnecessary foreign customs laws and ensures Texas exporters are fairly treated in TPP partner countries.
For businesses engaged in digital trade, TPP would ensure a free and open internet, allowing for the uninhibited flow of data across borders.
We are the global leader in technology innovation and manufacturing, but to maintain that position our government needs to lead in setting trade policy for the 21st century.
If the United States does not set the “rules of the road” for trade, then other countries will.
Should the divisive political rhetoric we hear today stymie trade, the country — and Texas — will pay a heavy price, both economically and strategically.
We need our Texas representatives in Congress to step up and lead the way in supporting trade and ratifying the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Caroline Joiner is a regional executive director for TechNet and is based in Austin.