A: International trade opens new markets for U.S. products and supports good-paying jobs in the United States. Likewise, international trade presents goods and services to U.S. employers and consumers that fuel commerce and choice.
Pursing new export markets should be a major part of America’s economic recovery effort. Jobs in the United States that are linked to international trade pay, on average, 15 percent more than the national average. While the United States stands by, other countries are enacting trade agreements for market share that easily could belong to U.S. producers.
Q: What is being done to expand export opportunities for U.S. goods and services?
A: Most recently, I’ve pushed for the enactment of new trade agreements, like the long-pending agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama, to present new opportunities for U.S. farmers, manufacturers, and the services industry, including energy, financial and insurance firms.
At this point, Congress is waiting for a chance to vote for free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. These agreements have been ready for consideration since 2007, when the Bush administration resolved issues of concern with congressional Democrats in 2007. Even so, in 2007 and 2008, Democratic leaders did not bring up the agreements for a vote. And, in 2009, the Obama administration raised new issues that further delayed action on the agreements. This year, it’s all but settled that Congress will, at long last, have an opportunity to vote on these agreements without tying them to other issues.
Q: What are the stakes for workers when trade initiatives are sidelined?
A: Manufacturers, financial services providers and farmers in Iowa and all over the country are always looking for new markets to increase their operations, whether those customers are in the United States or halfway around the world.
Right now, U.S.-Colombia trade is a one-way street. More than 99 percent of Colombian agricultural exports enter the U.S. market duty-free. No U.S. agricultural products have duty-free access to the Colombian market. In the United States, Iowa produces more corn, soybeans, hogs and eggs than any other state. Tariffs on some U.S. soybean exports to Colombia can be as high as 150 percent. Tariffs can be as high as 195 percent on some corn products. Under the trade agreement, these tariffs would go to zero.
U.S. producers estimate that the Korea trade agreement, once fully implemented, could increase U.S. agricultural exports to Korea by $1.9 billion. Korea is expected to absorb five percent of total U.S. pork production. Panama currently has a 30 percent tariff on U.S. beef and tariffs of up to 40 percent on imports of U.S. corn. Both of these tariffs would go to zero under the trade agreement.
Separately, the U.S. insurance and financial services industry, including companies in Iowa, says Korea represents the largest insurance market yet included in a U.S. free trade agreement and presents enormous opportunities for domestic job growth.
Behind all of these numbers are workers in Iowa and across the country who are equipped to feed and serve even more of the world than they already do if given the chance.