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Here's how to jump-start the economy

The conventional wisdom in Washington is that very little of substance can get done during the long presidential election season. But there is one major action Congress should take immediately that will have a major impact on our nation's ability to drive economic growth and grow jobs – and that's passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). President Obama urged Congress to do so in his State of the Union address.

For those of you who don't know, the TPP is a free-trade agreement including the United States, Canada and 10 other Pacific Rim nations. Combined, this trading block comprises nearly 40 percent of the world's gross domestic product and will have a major impact on our nation's ability to drive U.S. economic and job growth. This landmark agreement will break down barriers that prevent the free flow of goods, services, and information over borders.

President Barack Obama (C) meets with Trans-Pacific Partnership leaders during the APEC CEO Summit at the Hale Koa Hotel in Honolulu November 12, 2011.
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President Barack Obama (C) meets with Trans-Pacific Partnership leaders during the APEC CEO Summit at the Hale Koa Hotel in Honolulu November 12, 2011.

Why should Congress support this agreement? For three very simple reasons: it will grow jobs in the U.S., drive economic growth, and help ensure U.S. technology leadership around the globe.

The economic impact of free trade goes well beyond one company or one industry. It affects every sector of every industry in the economy. According to the Business Roundtable, free trade supports 39.8 million jobs across the nation. In 2013, trade with TPP countries supported more than 15 million American jobs.

For Cisco, we have over 36,000 jobs here in the U.S., and free trade supports the vast majority of them.

Over the past 30 years, the United States has been the global leader in technology. We're home to the iPhone, the personal computer, and digital tablets. We're the source country for the app economy. And the U.S. technology industry continues to lead the transition to the cloud.

As we look to the future, we at Cisco see a major shift to the Internet of Things that will mean entire countries, cities, and companies will be digitized and connected to the Internet. This will change just about everything – from the clothes we wear, to the cars we drive, to how health care is provided and the ways that major global issues like climate change are addressed.

But how this technological transformation develops will depend on the decisions made today. Will we open up new markets to new opportunities and new technologies? Or, will we stifle growth, job creation and innovation.


To me, there is no choice. We're in a globally connected world, and that requires strong agreements that ensure the free flow of goods, services, and data over borders.

The U.S. is the most innovative country in the world. The health of the U.S. economy increasingly relies on international trade partners buying U.S. goods and services. More than 95 percent of the world's population, and 80 percent of its purchasing power, are outside the United States. That's why it's so critical that we enact free-trade agreements, like the TPP.

At Cisco, our continued ability to grow, innovate, create jobs, and help shape the technological future is tied directly to our ability to reach new markets. The TPP will help us and hundreds of thousands of other U.S. companies do just that, and we urge Congress to take swift action to pass TPP implementing legislation. The clock is ticking.


Commentary by Jennifer Sanford, leader of trade policy for Cisco. Follow her on Twitter @jennsanf.

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