Five months into his first term, President Donald Trump continues to challenge convention and make waves throughout the world. Many Americans working overseas see this fresh approach as a tremendous opportunity, as long as the U.S. remains actively engaged with our allies — especially on trade.
More than 50 million Americans are employed by companies that engage in international trade. Americans working overseas for U.S.-based companies support domestic jobs by helping their employers remain competitive in an ever-changing global marketplace. These companies are not all conglomerates. In fact, more than 97 percent of the 293,000 that export their products are small-to-midsize businesses.
The Asia Pacific Council of American Chambers of Commerce (APCAC) represents more than 15,000 companies and over $637 billion in 2016 U.S. exports in the Asia Pacific region. APCAC is committed to advocating for the interests of the Americans living and working in the Asia-Pacific region and to strengthening U.S. interests abroad.Many of our members are visiting Capitol Hill this week and highlighting three important policy areas — trade, taxes and travel — that have an outsized impact on our ability to compete in the Asia-Pacific — a region that continues to drive global growth with an exploding middle class.
Unfortunately, according to a report from the bipartisan think tank Third Way, the U.S. continues to lose market share to foreign competitors in the Asia-Pacific. In fact, from 2000 through 2014, U.S. market share in the region fell 46 percent, the largest drop of any of the 25 largest exporters.
Trade must remain a top priority for this administration and Congress. APCAC members want to work hand-in-hand with both branches to maximize opportunities for American companies and workers that will result in U.S. job growth. To achieve this important goal, APCAC supports robust enforcement of existing U.S. trade laws.
What’s more, APCAC see value in the pursuit of both bilateral and regional/multilateral engagement on trade. A multilateral approach can be essential to maximizing exports to multiple markets, something that is of utmost importance to U.S. businesses. The U.S. can and should be a leader in such discussions, and APCAC believes the Trump administration is uniquely positioned to achieve positive change for U.S. businesses in this area.
Another critical focus must be tax reform. We understand that the first real tax reform in three decades is a real possibility this year or next. APCAC encourages policymakers to consider a shift to a territorial tax system for both companies and individuals. Unlike many other countries, the U.S. taxes Americans on their worldwide income, making them more expensive to employ. This must change.
Creating a system where Americans are only taxed once will create a competitive playing field, promote exports and create more investment and jobs for U.S. companies and citizens alike. This is a common-sense, bipartisan solution that will help Americans both at home and abroad.
Finally, renewal of the APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) must also be a top priority. Signed into law in 2011 and implemented in 2014, the ABTC allows business travelers pre-cleared, facilitated, short-term entry to participating member economies. If this measure is not renewed before its 2018 expiration, U.S. business travelers will no longer be able to enjoy these important benefits.
This will only serve to strengthen competitors who are eager to grab market share at our own expense. Legislation has been introduced to permanently reauthorize the ABTC (H.R. 2805 and S. 504), and given the importance of business travel to many U.S. based companies, APCAC considers renewal of the ABTC to be essential.
As we meet with lawmakers this week, we will bring with us the important perspective of Americans living and working overseas. Our country is indisputably the world’s economic leader and will remain so — if lawmakers prioritize policies that maximize opportunities for U.S. workers and businesses.
Jackson Cox is the chairman of the Asia Pacific Council of American Chambers of Commerce (APCAC), which represents the interests of over 50,000 executives and over 15,000 businesses in the Asia-Pacific region.