International trade agreements have a profound effect on Minnesota’s economy. But what effect does Minnesota have on international trade agreements?
Companion bills progressing through the Legislature, House File 883 and Senate File 640, seek to amplify the state’s voice in debate over trade agreements by breathing new life into the Minnesota Trade Policy Advisory Council.
The advisory council, according to Sen. John Hoffman (DFL-Champlin), a co-author of the bill, would “provide assistance and advice to policy makers” about keeping the state’s economy competitive in a changing global economy.
Minnesota has had trade advisory councils in the past; the last saw its authority “sunset” in 2012. Hoffman’s bill, however, would change the makeup of the council to reflect the groups with a stake in international trade policy.
How important is trade policy to Minnesota’s economy? A recent analysis of U.S. Labor Department data showed that 39,797 Minnesota jobs have been displaced by trade since 1994, when the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect. That ranks 15th highest in the nation as a percentage of state population.
While previous trade advisory groups have been populated mostly with state agency heads and elected officials, Hoffman’s bill calls for the Trade Policy Advisory Council to include appointees from the business community, organized labor, environmental groups and family farmers, as well as a bipartisan collection of legislators.
Josh Wise, director of the Minnesota Fair Trade Coalition, envisions the council bringing together “members of groups that have a really vested stake in making sure trade policy works for Minnesota.”
The Fair Trade Coalition, an issue-based umbrella organization of more than 40 labor, family farm, environmental, faith and social justice groups statewide, is backing the legislation, which also charges the advisory council with presenting an annual report to the Legislature that includes policy recommendations and draft legislation.
“This version of the trade advisory council is designed to be more effective than previous versions,” Wise said, adding that in previous years “there was no requirement to meet, no requirement to produce a report. It was, in our opinion, a pretty ineffective group.”