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We are striving to make foreign trade work for all Americans

In this May 8, 2015, photo, President Barack Obama speaks at Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., on the advantages of the Trans Pacific Partnership for American workers. He has made approval of the controversial trade agreement a high priority for his final months in office.
In this May 8, 2015, photo, President Barack Obama speaks at Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., on the advantages of the Trans Pacific Partnership for American workers. He has made approval of the controversial trade agreement a high priority for his final months in office. The Associated Press File

Over the last seven years, we have helped middle-class families start to reclaim their economic security by restoring the basic values that made our country great – including the idea that everyone should play by the same rules.

That principle matters in farm states and factory towns across America, but it doesn’t stop at our shores. We also have to enforce a level playing field in the global economy. Just as we’ve worked to ensure we don’t have one set of rules for Wall Street and another for Main Street, my administration has built an unprecedented record of holding trading partners accountable and fighting back when they try to rip us off. April 14 marked another such victory for American workers in California.

We exposed a Chinese government scheme to subsidize seven industries – including textiles, apparel and medical products – that compete directly with American workers and businesses. The program let Chinese businesses unfairly flood the world market with their exports at our expense.

My administration brought the results of our intensive investigation to the World Trade Organization – the 20th such enforcement case we’ve pursued since I took office and our 11th against China. In fact, during my time in office America has brought more cases than any other country and we’ve won every case that’s been decided.

The result this time is yet another win for America: China’s efforts to take advantage of our workers under this program have been shut down, and we’re monitoring closely to make sure it stays that way.

This victory has real consequences for California workers and businesses. That’s because in the investigation that led to this case, we found that China was unfairly supporting the specialty crops, including fruits and vegetables, that directly compete with working men and women in California.

These subsidies undermined fair competition, threatened to affect global prices and hurt Californians who rely on agriculture to provide for their families. Stopping this scheme is a significant step toward helping our agricultural industry compete and win on a level global playing field. Californians should be proud to know that Rep. Costa of Fresno supported this effort at every step and has been a tremendous partner in seeing this case to completion.

Because trade is a pillar of middle-class economics, holding our trading partners’ feet to the fire has been a priority of my administration. In fact, no country has done more to hold its trading partners accountable. That’s how we make sure Americans get all the benefits we’ve negotiated under our trade agreements. It’s why in recent weeks we’ve pursued enforcement actions that have opened up South Africa to American beef, poultry, and pork; successfully challenged unfair subsidies in India that undercut our solar industry; are taking steps to address illegal logging in Peru; strengthened intellectual property rights protections in Honduras; and worked with Colombia to agree to strengthen its worker-protection laws. And it’s why in February I signed into law a customs and trade enforcement bill that gives us even more new tools to investigate and prosecute those who violate our trade agreements.

One of the best ways to enforce the idea that everyone should play by the same rules in global trade is by setting better rules in the first place. That’s why we’ve made sure the Trans-Pacific Partnership would help Americans sell to the world more of what we make here at home by establishing the highest standards of any trade agreement, including strong, fully enforceable intellectual property, labor, and environmental protections. And unlike many past agreements, we’ve made those commitments fully enforceable, including using sanctions. The result is an agreement that advances both our interests and our values in one of the world’s fastest-growing regions. TPP makes sure our products aren’t the only things stamped “Made in the USA” – the world’s trade standards should be set here, too.

We’ve fought hard over the past seven years to make sure everybody plays by the same rules, building on seven decades of American leadership that have made us the chief architect of a trading system that gives our workers the chance to get ahead. In an increasingly competitive world, our competitors will lead if we sit on the sidelines. Right now China is moving full steam ahead to create its own trade deal for the region that would cut the United States out of key markets and exclude the high standards we put in the TPP. That would undercut American workers and American businesses.

We have the best workers in the world, the most innovative companies and the best products. Because of our commitment to holding our trading partners accountable, America won again last week. With open markets, a level playing field, and the strong enforcement TPP promises, Americans will continue to win for years to come.

President Barack Obama wrote this commentary exclusively for The Fresno Bee.

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