With all the focus on jobs, there’s one solution that has been sitting on the President’s desk since he took office. After years of being ignored, the U.S. Free-Trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama are still victims of Washington’s politics-as-usual.
Instead of supporting agriculture as a shining star among a lifeless American economy, and creating thousands of jobs in the process, politicians continue to find ways to postpone implementation of the three FTA’s.
When implemented, the three agreements could add over 70,000 jobs and increase exports by $12 billion. Creating these jobs would not require millions or billions of taxpayer dollars in stimulus development, just implementation.
The USDA estimates that by implementing these three trade agreements, the United States would boost total agricultural exports by $2.2 billion and add nearly 20,000 jobs. Jobs would be created in transportation, on farms, in food processing facilities, packing plants and in sales and marketing.
Yet, these revenue- and job-growing trade agreements continue to get lip service only. Maybe if Washington quits playing politics and gets serious about creating jobs, progress could be made.
American agriculture is losing revenue to foreign competitors every day that the trade agreements continue gathering dust in Washington. Even U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said it’s time to implement these FTA’s because the United States has already lost enough market share.
As U.S. politicians hem and haw and continue to delay passage, U.S. competitors such as Australia, Chile, Canada and the European Union are busy sewing up their own agreements capturing millions of dollars of potential U.S. export business. Yes, the United States is now being whipped in the international trade arena by the likes of Chile, thanks to our brilliant politicians.
The Trade Adjustment Assistance program, designed to protect workers who lose jobs because of increased imports, is a political barrier standing in the way of the trade agreements. The program, backed by President Obama, is designed to provide weekly cash payments for 52 weeks after a worker's unemployment compensation benefit is exhausted.
Frustration among agriculture industry groups has reached the boiling point as they watch their market shares slipping away dollar by dollar, perhaps never to be regained.
It’s estimated that the U.S.-South Korea FTA alone would double pork exports by 2016 to more than $400 million. Implementation would ultimately boost U.S. beef exports to more than $1 billion per year – up from $518 million in 2010.
Duties on beef imports would be reduced from 40 percent to zero over 15 years while duties on pork, currently at 22.5 percent on chilled product and 25 percent on frozen, would be phased out by 2016.
As a direct result of U.S. politicians’ inaction, we continue losing billions of dollars in export sales and at the same time have failed to create the jobs we so desperately need. With Washington in charge, it’s really no wonder the U.S. economy is flat lining.
To create the jobs we need, it may not be necessary to spend billions on more government stimulus programs. Washington could get a good start on job creation by implementing the free-trade agreements now.