Weekly Columns

What do a power tool manufacturer, an aircraft finishing plant, an oil and gas pipe producer, and a poultry company have in common? All four are Arkansas-based employers that do a significant amount of business with Russia.

Power tool manufacturer Husqvarna Outdoor Products exported more than $17.6 million out of its Nashville operations to Russia. Hawker Beechcraft Corporation, which operates its aircraft finishing plant in Little Rock, has been actively courting the burgeoning Russian private aviation sector. The company anticipates high demand for its Hawker 900XP in the Russian market. TMK IPSCO, a division of a Russia-based oil and gas pipe producer OAO TMK, employs 350 Arkansans at its steel tube pipe plant in Blytheville. Tyson Foods, one of the world’s largest processors and marketers of chicken, beef and pork, is based in Springdale and exported more than $11.6 million worth of beef to Russia.  

These examples are just a few of the Natural State’s players active in the Russian economy. In total, Arkansas companies and farms exported $56 million worth of goods to Russia in 2011.  We have showed we can successfully compete in the Russian market. Now, we have a chance to make further inroads in a growing market of 140 million consumers through a new bill expanding trade with Russia that President Obama recently signed into law.

Earlier this year, Russia formally entered the World Trade Organization (WTO). In order to be accepted into the organization, Russia agreed to lower its import tariffs, strengthen intellectual property protections, and resolve problems through a rules-based dispute resolution system. This new law makes normal trade relations permanent between the U.S. and Russia, allowing U.S. companies to take advantage of the new trade rules that the WTO’s other 155 members enjoy.

U.S. exports have been falling behind in Russia. We have not done as well as other countries in the Russian market due to four-decade’s worth of trade restrictions that prevent us from being able to maximize the Russian market.

Normalizing trade relations with Russia will create additional economic opportunities for Arkansas manufacturers, farmers and ranchers. Trade with Russia has created positive benefits for Arkansas’s machinery, aerospace and poultry sectors which make-up 86 percent of our state’s exports to Russia. This bill is a job creator. By leveling the playing field in today’s competitive global market, we will create jobs here at home. 

The value of Arkansas exports rose 28.3 percent in comparison with the same time period of 2011. As the value has risen, so has the demand. In the first half of 2012 alone, several countries sharply increased their demand for Arkansas products – Indonesia by 228 percent, Germany by 178 percent, Brazil by 170 percent, and France by 116 percent. And before you think it is solely large corporations that are benefitting, take a look at this statistic: About 78 percent of the state’s exports are from small and medium-sized businesses with fewer than 500 employees.

Arkansas’s economy stands to really benefit from tearing down these artificial trade barriers. A growing market equals more jobs in Arkansas. We must continue to find new markets for our companies and farmers to compete in. Free and fair trade is an important component of a pro-growth economic strategy because trade aboard equals jobs at home.