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News Journal: Trade deal will unlock opportunities for Delaware

Small and medium-sized companies will be better able to expand thanks to this deal

Apr 24 2015

The company I lead is a case study in the positive impact of fair and open trade.

In 1985, ACE was created by a group of U.S. entrepreneurs looking to solve an insurance crisis. Over the course of 30 years, we’ve evolved from a small company primarily focused on the U.S. market to one of the world’s largest multiline property and casualty insurers with half of our business in 53 other countries. Along the way, we acquired and grew major U.S. businesses so that today we are a significant U.S. taxpayer and an employer of over 10,000 Americans – 3,000 of whom are based here in the Delaware Valley. Half of those employees support our international operations.

To put it simply: as our company has grown outside the U.S. – and that’s where more than 95 percent of the world’s population and business opportunity is – we’ve hired more people here at home.

On average, jobs tied to global trade pay 33 percent more than the national mean. That’s certainly true at ACE, where our professionals in areas such as underwriting, claims handling and marketing enjoy good-paying positions that include benefits like healthcare, paid vacation, and retirement contributions, and offer opportunities for professional growth and advancement. These are the kinds of jobs America needs to support a strong, financially secure middle class.

What’s true for ACE is true for other companies across the state. Last year, Delaware businesses exported $5.3 billion of goods, supporting more than 23,000 jobs in industries such as chemicals, electronic products, transportation equipment and agriculture. The profile of these companies might surprise you: 86 percent were small- or medium-sized businesses. In the 21st century, the benefits of access to global markets are not just for big, multinational companies anymore. Small and medium-sized companies are rapidly increasing their activities overseas, enabled by new technologies, including the Internet. As they grow, we grow with them.

International trade and investment is now front and center in Washington as Congress is considering legislation to reauthorize the President’s authority to negotiate trade agreements and submit them to Congress for a straight up-or-down vote, without filibusters or amendments designed to delay, dilute or derail a deal. Legislators from both parties, with the strong support of President Obama, have put aside partisan differences to support the renewal of this legislation, known as Trade Promotion Authority, or TPA. Nearly every President in the last 75 years, Democrat and Republican, has had this kind of negotiating authority. Without TPA, our international negotiating partners will lack assurance that agreements reached with the U.S. will be binding, and their best offers may never be put on the table.

Passing TPA is an essential first step to complete critical trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, that will spur economic growth and jobs across America. The U.S. and 11 other Pacific nations that together represent 40 percent of global GDP are involved in the negotiations. By addressing barriers to doing business such as investment restrictions, regulatory discrimination and local ownership requirements, TPP will help level the playing field, particularly in the fast-growing economies of Asia Pacific, and create new opportunities for Delaware manufacturers, service providers, the agricultural industry and companies like ACE. This is a significant economic opportunity for America that should not fall victim to political infighting.

If you look at the world today, Asia is the region with the greatest 21st century wealth creation potential. America is a Pacific nation, and American companies must be free to participate. America’s future prosperity, including our ability to create good jobs and compete globally, depends on our active participation in trade and investment in Asia Pacific. Countries in the region want and expect U.S. leadership and engagement economically, politically and security-wise. Our country enjoys the benefits from global leadership and we have a responsibility to lead the world including in Asia in a modern vision of fair and open trade and investment that TPP represents. But first, Congress must pass TPA. Doing so will help ensure that we unlock more opportunities for Delaware and the rest of America.

Evan Greenberg is chairman and CEO of ACE Group.