Blocking Trade Agreements Stifles Exports; Congressional Action Must Back Obama's Words

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 20, 2010 | Go to article overview

Blocking Trade Agreements Stifles Exports; Congressional Action Must Back Obama's Words


Byline: Gary Shapiro, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Earlier this year, President Obama set an ambitious goal of doubling the nation's exports in five years as a way of creating 2 million American jobs. To get there, he called for passage of three pending free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea, which have been stalled since the Bush years.

Our nation's leader is absolutely right. As head of an association representing some 2,000 consumer technology companies, I know full well that agreements like these are vital to the growth of this nation's high-tech industries. These free trade agreements eliminate tariffs on American made exports and thus allow American companies to compete. Trade agreements grow our exports and create thousands of American jobs.

In total, U.S. companies exported $1.6 trillion in goods and services in 2007, helping support 16 million jobs, according to the Small Business Administration. That number peaked in 2008 at $1.8 trillion, before falling to $1.5 trillion last year. That loss represents tens of thousands of American jobs. The best way to get them back is to open international markets.

The cost of inaction couldn't be clearer. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that passage of the Colombian and South Korean trade agreements could contribute as much as $44.8 billion in national output and add 383,000 jobs.

In 2009, failure to pass the Panama trade pact could have been an important factor in Panama's decision to award a $3 billion contract to a European consortium over an American company to build new locks for the Panama Canal, according to James Roberts of the Heritage Foundation. The canal expansion project is the largest construction project in the Americas and American companies are shut out without the passage of the Panama free trade agreement.

The simple truth is that while the United States dithers, the rest of the world is breaking down trade barriers. Last October, the EU signed a trade deal with South Korea, and is moving ahead on a deal with Colombia. At the same time, the Colombian trade minister met with Canadian officials last week to help cement a trade agreement with our competitors to the north.

The United States is losing its competitive edge in the global marketplace as long as it follows the union script and shifts to protectionism. Most union objections to these trade agreements are either weak or outdated.

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