Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Free Trade Is Vital to Missouri's Economy

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Free Trade Is Vital to Missouri's Economy

Article excerpt

One of my top priorities as lieutenant governor has been promoting Missouri businesses through the Buy Missouri program, highlighting the numerous products from dog food to windows that are produced in communities across our state.

While Buy Missouri thus far has focused primarily on promoting domestic consumption of locally produced goods, I also realize that the ability to freely access international markets is important for Missouri's many small businesses and agricultural producers.

About 95 percent of consumers' and 80 percent of the world's purchasing power are located outside our nation's borders. We can't grow by selling only to domestic customers; our economic success depends on being able to reach the massive number of consumers around the globe and find new markets for Missouri-made products.

This is why international accords like the North American Free Trade Agreement are so important. These agreements allow Missouri farmers, ranchers and businesses to sell goods on an even playing field and reach new customers around the world, without having to worry about protectionist tariffs or nonsensical regulations getting in the way.

Because of free trade, producers across Missouri can compete at a global level, and due to the quality and variety of goods our state produces we have become very successful at exporting. As of 2016, the Department of Commerce reported that nearly 85,000 jobs across Missouri are supported by the export economy.

These are jobs in every corner of our state, from farms to factories, in cities large and small. The impact goes beyond just big multinational companies: Data show that 85 percent of Missouri companies exporting goods internationally are small- to medium-sized businesses.

The statistics are absolutely staggering. In the agriculture industry alone, $3.6 billion in economic activity was generated through international exports during 2015 $1.1 billion in soybeans, $331 million in corn, $248 million in pork, and $107 million in beef, among other agricultural products.

Our success marketing goods to consumers outside of our borders has played a big role in allowing Missouri's agricultural industry to grow and thrive. …

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