Senator John Boozman's Column for the Week of Week of October 17, 2011
Oct 18 2011
Given that 95% of the world’s consumers live outside of the United States, it would make sense for the United States to aggressively engage with new potential trading partners in every corner of the world. The more open markets our exporters have around the globe, the more jobs they can create here at home.
Yet, President Obama had allowed pending free-trade agreements with Panama, South Korea and Colombia sit on his desk for over two years before recently sending them to Congress for ratification. During that time, our nation’s unemployment rate rose well above the 7.8% it stood at when President Obama was sworn into office. Simply sending these agreements over to Congress from the get-go could have helped to alleviate some of the economic pains that many Americans are feeling right now.
Hundreds of thousands of jobs can be created if we take steps to increase our exports. The Panama, South Korea and Colombia pacts are a good start. It is estimated that these three pacts alone could create over 250,000 jobs here at home. With that in mind, it is difficult to understand how these trade agreements languished on the President’s desk for that long, especially in light of our current economic situation.
This past week, we finally had an opportunity to approve those free-trade agreements. Republicans and Democrats in both the House and Senate cast their vote in support of them. This shouldn’t come as a surprise since we have repeatedly said this is one way to stimulate the economy where we find common-ground. The only shocking part is how long it took the Administration to send these three trade agreements over to us.
As they say, better late than never.
Free and fair trade agreements allow American businesses to compete and succeed on a global market while opening up new markets for American products. By creating access to emerging markets, we create a demand for our goods and services. In turn, American exporters need to hire more workers to meet the increased demand. It is a simple equation that should yield real returns for our nation’s struggling economy.
It has been noted that the first month of the European Union’s (EU) trade agreement with South Korea, the EU’s exports to Korea have risen 37%. During that same period, U.S. exports to South Korea have only risen 3%. The U.S. Free-Trade Agreement with South Korea should help eliminate that disparity. Given the opportunity U.S. manufacturers, farmers and service businesses can compete with anyone and free-trade agreements give them that opportunity.
At a more microcosmic-level, trade is vital to the economy of Arkansas. Over 600,000 Arkansas jobs depend on exports. Over 1,500 companies export from Arkansas. In turn, our agriculture producers, businesses and manufacturers reinvest those dollars into our economy and communities.
Over 1,000 of Arkansas exporters are small to medium businesses. Since small businesses are the backbone of our economy, ratification of these agreements is crucial to promoting job creation in Arkansas. This is especially true in our manufacturing sector, where jobs are at the lowest level since 1968. And it is also vital for our agricultural community—the Natural State’s largest industry—that there are additional markets open for their crops and commodities.
I will continue to support efforts to open markets to U.S. goods while I serve in the Senate, but in doing so, will continue to work to ensure that our partners trade fairly. Free trade must be fair. When trade agreements are followed to the letter, American workers and consumers reap the benefits. However, if our partners don't abide by the rules that are agreed upon, American jobs are at risk. I will work with my colleagues in Congress and the Administration to ensure that we have free, but fair trade policies in effect.