During a visit to Savannah, Ga. earlier this month, I strolled along the waterfront and watched colossal cargo ships arrive to port. Similar in size to a six-story building and capable of carrying the equivalent of a 44 mile-long freight train, the ships carry many of the goods that surround us daily – food, apparel, electronics – and are responsible for a substantial portion of the $100 billion worth of automotive parts imported annually. The ships are a visible reminder of the importance of trade to the U.S. economy in general, and to the automotive aftermarket specifically.
Despite the false notion held by many of our lawmakers that imports threaten domestic jobs (in the past 30 years, as imports have increased, the unemployment rate has decreased), these cargo ships carry automotive products that are critical to our industry’s supply chain and support thousands of jobs. Many of the imported auto products start from U.S. intellectual property and/or components of goods that are produced or assembled overseas. Many more consist of raw materials, components and capital equipment that support U.S. manufacturing. These imports support jobs in port loading, transportation, wholesale trade, retail trade, advertising and aftermarket service. In other words, the economic activity associated with these imports has a market-expanding effect that adds value and jobs to our economy. These imports also expand choice of goods for U.S. consumers.
Given the importance of trade to our industry, my mandate as AAIA’s director for international trade is to utilize AAIA’s influential voice in Washington, D.C. to advocate for free and fair trade in our industry. This includes monitoring activity of federal agencies and congressional committees that might impact the international trade activity of AAIA’s membership, interacting with federal agency officials that have responsibility for automotive parts trade development, and developing and communicating positions to federal agencies on government initiatives affecting AAIA member companies’ import and export business. These efforts will aim to enhance our industry’s ability to compete and to support the interests of foreign suppliers and domestic importers to make sure the U.S. aftermarket has unrestricted access to the premium products from the best suppliers around the world, no matter where they are headquartered.
In the coming months, AAIA’s government affairs team will work with the U.S. government to identify and eliminate barriers to trade, including counterfeiting, tariffs and regulatory constraints. We will provide input on negotiating objectives for bilateral and multilateral trade negotiations, including the Transpacific Partnership negotiations and a potential U.S.-EU trade agreement. We will support action to grant Trade Promotion Authority to the president, allowing him to negotiate trade agreements that Congress can then approve or reject, but not amend. We will review Customs Reauthorization legislation closely and support efforts to streamline the customs process and eliminate redundancies. We will also work one-on-one with members to navigate complicated rules and regulations. And, hopefully, our efforts and your support will help keep those cargo ships coming into port!
Earlier this week our government affairs team launched this new website. Our hope was to create a valuable tool to assist both us and our members in our ongoing mission to accelerate AAIA’s political advocacy efforts. With more than 23,000 members, large and small, and at every level of the supply chain, our association remains poised to make a huge impact in political engagement. However, the success of any association’s legislative and regulatory initiatives begins with you, the members of the association. Your commitment to making your voice heard by members of Congress on issues that we care about as an industry is what will help advance our collective interests here in Washington, D.C.
While you will see a lot of the same information that was available on our former site, including issue briefs, our Capital Report newsletter and links to key government agencies, hopefully you will notice the major changes to the grassroots and political action committee sections, which have been entirely revamped to make engaging in our advocacy efforts not only easier, but more rewarding.
Our new “Become an Advocate” section offers users the ability to find their state and federal legislators and contact them about a specific issue relating to your business. The heart of the new website is the newly-energized Legislative Action Center. While the center will still permit members to send letters on issues of importance to the industry, it also will be the place to go for members who want to be key advocates in advancing the industry’s legislative agenda. Key advocates will service as the go-to members that can be counted on to make contact with legislators if an issue comes up that requires immediate attention. Our hope is to encourage as many members as possible show their commitment by becoming an advocate, and then provide us with both the action and knowledge necessary to achieve a certain advocacy goal.
The Automotive Aftermarket Political Action Committee (AAPAC) has been an important facet of our legislative efforts on Capitol Hill for many years, but our competitors continue to outraise us by a wide margin, thus allowing them additional access to key legislators. We have ambitious goals for AAPAC in the coming years, but we will not achieve them without the backing of our members. The new site not only provides more information on why AAPAC is critical to our industry’s future, but will make it easier for our members to participate.
Finally, state legislative initiatives impacting our industry continue to grow. The new website provides an easy way to easy way to keep track of state legislation relevant to the aftermarket. Check out the map on the State Legislative page to see what state legislation that we are tracking and their status in their respective legislature. We will continue to develop this feature, including adding subcategories of “topic” and “priority,” to ensure that our members can conveniently benefit from it on a regular basis.
Our team has set lofty goals for our advocacy program and this website will provide us and our members the necessary jumping-off point to move forward. Of course, we took on this redesign project to make it easier for our members to get involved in our efforts so please feel free to contact any one of us with recommendations on how we can improve the site. We appreciate your support and commitment to keeping the aftermarket an active and thriving industry.