Long overdue is the need for Congress to ratify the pending bilateral free-trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. The Obama administration is holding up sending the agreements to Congress for approval while simultaneously leaving the “distinct impression that Congress is sitting on the bills,” as reported by the Washington Post.
Passage of all three trade agreements will create an estimated 250,000 new jobs across the nation for starters. Free trade’s benefits are lasting to main street America and are essential to enhancing prosperity. Free trade benefits all the partners who learn the rules of engagement. Free trade’s reciprocity is “insourcing” — Mercedes, Hyundai, Toyota, to name a few, all have successful operations in Alabama.
The most effective way to increase American exports is through free-trade agreements. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, total trade of U.S. exports worldwide was $462.7 billion higher than it otherwise would have been because of the FTAs currently in place. The agreements support 5.4 million jobs, and products made in the U.S. exported to trade partners grew nearly three times as rapidly as did our exports to the rest of the world between 1998 and 2008.
In Alabama, we have dedicated trade professionals and two renowned trade services — the Alabama State Port Authority and the Port of Huntsville. According to a recent Alabama Trade Center report, state exports of manufactured goods rose to $15.5 billion in 2010. This amounts to an increase of nearly 26 percent over 2009 levels.
In aggregate, more than 35,000 Alabama jobs are directly supported by exports, according to the U.S. Chamber. Alabama ships to more than 180 countries with the top destinations being Canada, China and Germany.
With more than 360 foreign-based companies in Alabama, according to a recent BBVA Compass report, the level of exports and the number of companies investing in Alabama are directly correlated. Moreover, their conclusion asserts that exports are “the bright spot for Alabama’s economy.”
The bottom line is that every $1 billion in exports will create 15,000 jobs for Alabama workers.
As a state, we have proven ourselves good when it comes to trade and marketing in the global economy. The next few years are critical in our efforts to become great. Unleashing Alabama’s potential in the global economy by doubling our exports in the next five years needs to be one of the cornerstones of solutions for our economy and creating jobs.
Michael Ciamarra writes on trade policy and is a policy consultant who serves as a Senior Fellow with the Alabama Policy Institute. E-mail: email@example.com.