Our Views: Stronger trade in the Atlantic

If the world can be a dangerous place, with threats like North Korea imperiling the peace, we also agree with President Barack Obama that today’s world is filled with opportunities for an America willing to both cooperate and compete with other nations.

Some good news in the president’s speech came in his brief section on trade. Louisiana is a major trading state, with a giant complex of ports that anchor the Mississippi River trading basin. Shipping and its benefits have been hallmarks of the state’s existence since colonial beginnings.

To make the most of that set of economic assets, good government policy is part of the mix, and we endorse the pro-trade declarations made by Obama in the State of the Union speech.

“To boost American exports, support American jobs and level the playing field in the growing markets of Asia, we intend to complete negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership,” Obama said. “And tonight, I’m announcing that we will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union — because trade that is fair and free across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs.”

Amen to all that, and negotiations — always tricky because of the complexities of law and of interest groups wary of threats to their priorities — will take time to get under way. But Obama and European Union leaders pledged to promote greater growth and more jobs by eliminating trade barriers that exist.

The Atlantic trade deserves some TLC from the nation’s leaders, just as does the Pacific: “The trans-Atlantic economic relationship is already the world’s largest, accounting for half of global economic output and nearly one trillion dollars in goods and services trade, and supporting millions of jobs on both sides of the Atlantic,” the joint statement from Obama and the EU leadership said.

We hope that this is the beginning of an even more improved trading system.

When Columbus set sail, he could hardly imagine the value of the Atlantic trade he was launching. Even the fabled gold of the Indies has been dwarfed by the trade in humbler goods that cross the Ocean Sea he pioneered.

Growth and jobs are supported by free and fair trade, and we applaud these initiatives.