Francisco J. Sánchez is the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade.
It was a good day for American businesses and workers.
Earlier this afternoon, President Obama submitted three free-trade deals — with Korea, Colombia and Panama — to Congress for consideration. If passed, these agreements would be a big boost to our economy, providing new opportunities for U.S. companies abroad, while strengthening our economy here at home.
As the President said: “These agreements will support tens of thousands of jobs across the country for workers making products stamped with three proud words: Made in America.”
President Obama has long said that exports are a key to the nation’s economic recovery. Nearly two years ago, he launched the National Export Initiative with the goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014. And, last month, in a speech before Congress where he unveiled the American Jobs Act — a bipartisan proposal to put Americans back to work — he stressed the economic benefits of these free-trade agreements.
The President has correctly recognized that exporting provides U.S. businesses with new opportunities to sell their goods and services in markets overseas. The pending FTAs before Congress would ensure that this trade — with three important markets — is both free and fair.
This is important. Consider that, in 2010, the United States enjoyed a $9.9 billion non-oil trade surplus with our FTA partners, as compared to a $371 billion non-oil trade deficit with the rest of the world. In addition, last year, 41 percent of U.S. goods exports went to our FTA partners, even though those countries only account for 9 percent of global Gross Domestic Product.
Clearly, fair trade is good for our economic health and future. If passed, the pending FTAs are sure to enhance these benefits. Now, there have been a lot of misconceptions about these FTAs. To set the record straight, here are some basic facts:
The U.S. –Korea trade agreement will:
- Support at least 70,000 American jobs, and boost annual exports of American goods by up to $11 billion through tariff reductions alone.
- Create new opportunities for U.S. exporters in Korea’s $1.5 trillion economy, the 12th largest in the world in 2010, based on purchasing power parity exchange rates.
The U.S. – Colombia trade agreement will:
- Generate new possibilities in the 3rd largest economy in Central and South America.
- Reduce barriers to U.S. exports, spurring new opportunities for our businesses, workers, farmers and ranchers, thereby supporting more and better jobs for Americans.
The U.S. – Panama trade agreement will:
- Provide new possibilities with one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America, expanding 6.2 percent in 2010, with similar annual growth forecast through 2015.
- Enhance U.S. competitiveness by eliminating tariffs and other barriers to U.S. exports and expanding trade between our two countries.
Bottom line: By ensuring that the American people have a level-playing field to compete on in these three important markets, the FTAs would spur billions in economic activity, support tens of thousands of American jobs, and sharpen the United States’ competitive edge moving into the future.
The President has worked hard to strengthen these agreements to, in his words, “get the best possible deal for American workers.”
Now, I join his call in urging Congress to pass the FTAs without delay.