Before We Gamble on Trade

06/12/2015 09:48 am ET | Updated Jun 12, 2016

As we in Congress debate whether to grant President Obama the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with eleven other countries, it is vital for us to consider whether we are fully prepared as a nation for the outcome of the decisions we make on this deal. Unless we are certain that the United States will remain highly competitive through a better-prepared workforce and modernized infrastructure, I am not ready to support TPA.

The success of our nation depends on the strength of its people. Since discussions of the TPP started, my constituents in New York City have consistently voiced their concerns over its potential impact on their current and future employment. It is not enough for us to have a deal to ensure American jobs for American workers. We must also focus on providing the best education system and job training resources for young people and our future generations.

A good trade deal would have to guarantee that education is prioritized throughout our country. Quality education leads to quality jobs. Education is the key to success, and we must empower our students with higher education that is affordable. Tomorrow's jobs will require a college degree and training for a changing and evolving workplace. While other countries are sending their youths to America to receive training at some of the best universities in the world, we are making college less accessible for our own students who cannot afford the rising tuition costs.

I have been calling upon the administration to make sure that any trade agreement include adequate job training for America's workforce. It is not a good investment for our economy if the deal does not safeguard American jobs and a strong educational system. We must maintain a highly-skilled workforce so that the U.S. remains competitive in the global economy.

A sensible deal would also address our crumbling infrastructure. We must modernize our rail and highway systems to improve the transportation of people, goods and services throughout the country. Construction projects not only mean additional jobs but also greater efficiency that would ultimately bolster our economy.

It makes no sense to gamble on a deal without securing tools that will allow America to remain a world leader. This can happen only when we make the American people a priority and take the necessary steps to enhance our workforce and transportation system, which is the greatest investment we can make in our future. The American people are depending on us to make a smart decision. Congress cannot simply give the president carte blanche without the assurance of a more comprehensive and inclusive package.

Rep. Charles B. Rangel, ranking member of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade, is currently serving his 23rd term in the U.S. House of Representatives.