At U.S. Chamber’s Urging, Trade Agenda Makes Progress

Apr 11, 2011

Chamber member and small business owner Jason Speer urges Congress to pass all three trade agreements.

The nation’s trade agenda received a significant boost last week when U.S. and Colombia negotiators reached agreement on labor and judicial reforms that opens the door for congressional approval of the long-pending U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement.

“Presidents Obama and Santos showed courage and pragmatism in striking this accord,” said U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue. “Passionate, bipartisan support in Congress for the trade agreement with Colombia was also critical to this breakthrough, as was the tireless work of Ambassador Kirk.”

“This proves the United States can still lead on trade,” Donohue added. “The Chamber will work closely with the White House and Congress to secure approval of the three pending free trade agreements [Colombia, Korea, and Panama] in the weeks ahead.”

U.S. tariffs on Colombian manufactured goods averaged just 0.1% last year, but Colombian tariffs on U.S. manufactured goods averaged 15%—and even higher for U.S. agricultural products.

The U.S.-Colombia trade agreement will level the playing field for U.S. workers, farmers, and companies by immediately eliminating Colombian duties on more than 80% of U.S. exports. It will also open services markets and strengthen intellectual property rights, according to the U.S. Chamber, which serves as secretariat for the Latin American Trade Coalition.

“We can’t afford further delay,” Donohue said. “Other nations are racing to clinch their own trade deals with Colombia and put American workers at a competitive disadvantage. U.S. farmers have already seen their share of Colombia’s agriculture market fall from about three-quarters two years ago to one-quarter today.”

Korea FTA Progress

Also last week, the Chamber spearheaded a bipartisan letter signed by 27 former senior U.S. government officials calling for action on the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) as well as the trade agreements with Colombia and Panama.

The letter to House and Senate leadership includes signatories that range from former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Madeline Albright to former U.S. Trade Representatives Mickey Kantor and Susan Schwab to former White House Chiefs of Staff Mack McLarty and Andy Card. It points out how critical KORUS is to American job creation and competiveness. 

“KORUS—the most economically significant trade agreement (FTA) negotiated by the United States in over 15 years—would boost U.S. goods exports by up to $11 billion dollars and U.S. GDP by nearly $12 billion, according to the independent, nonpartisan U.S. International Trade Commission. The agreement would create as many as 70,000 new jobs for Americans at a time when we most need them,” the letter states.

Small Business Owners Say Pass All Three Agreements

The letter was released to coincide with a House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee hearing on KORUS, at which John Schoch of Profile Products, LLC, testified on the Chamber’s behalf.
Profile Products LLC, headquartered in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, is a leading producer of erosion control, vegetation establishment, soil modification, and sports field renovation and maintenance products. It exports to more than 50 countries around the world, including Korea, its largest market makes up 12% of their total international sales revenue, Schoch said.

“As our exports grow, so does the employment in our manufacturing facilities,” Schoch said. “With the passage of KORUS and the pending trade deals with Colombia and Panama, I have no doubt that thousands of SMEs like Profile will be able to hire and retain a larger, more productive workforce.”

Separately, small business owner and Chamber member Jason Speer testified before the House Small Business Committee. Speer, vice president of Quality Float Works, a family-owned manufacturer of hollow float metal balls and float valves, made a strong case for approval of all three pending trade agreements as a way to both grow the U.S. economy and create jobs for Americans.

“The best stimulus package we can receive in this struggling economy would be the elimination of foreign trade barriers,” Speer told the committee.

In 2001, exported goods accounted for only 3% of Quality Float Works total sales, Speer said. Last year, exports accounted for one third of the company’s total sales. The company already exports to South Korea—where its products face an 8% tariff—and is exploring additional opportunities for exports to Panama and Colombia. “I can tell you with certainty that these agreements will enhance Quality Float Works’ ability to grow in new markets and consequently increase our U.S. workforce,” Speer said.

A U.S. Chamber study warns that the United States stands to lose more than 380,000 jobs and $40 billion in export sales if the pending trade agreements suffer further delays.
 

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