Congress Passes President Obama’s Trade Measures to Support American Jobs and Exports

Last night, Congress passed four significant trade initiatives President Obama has advanced to help increase U.S. exports that support additional American jobs, and help American workers who need retraining and assistance when their jobs are affected by global competition.  The trade agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama – which we at USTR worked hard to make better at the President’s insistence – will strengthen and expand ties with strategic partners in Asia and Latin America even as they support tens of thousands of jobs here at home, from shop floors to farms to service firms across our country. And the renewal of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) reforms will ensure that workers get retraining and assistance for the 21st-century jobs they want and need.  

As I mentioned last week, when the President sent the legislation to Congress, there have recently been questions about whether trade supports jobs, and how.  We have a saying at USTR: “more exports, more jobs.”  Because every $1 billion of exports of American goods is estimated to support more than 6,000 additional jobs here at home.  And every billion dollars of services exports is estimated to support more than 4,500 jobs.  Since these trade agreements are estimated to increase U.S. goods exports alone by a combined total of at least $12 billion, they will support tens of thousands of real jobs and put more money in the pockets of hard-working Americans across the country. 

Furthermore, the U.S.-Korea trade agreement will open Korea’s $580 billion services market to highly competitive American companies – creating additional jobs for American service providers in sectors from delivery and telecommunications services to distribution, and energy and environmental services.  The Colombia and Panama agreements open up services sectors to American companies selling into those markets as well.  

Of course, American manufacturers will benefit each of these agreements.  For example, more than 80 percent of American exports of industrial goods become immediately duty free upon implementation of the U.S.-Colombia trade agreement, including almost all products in agriculture and construction equipment, aircraft and parts, auto parts, fertilizers, agro-chemicals and information technology equipment.  

Let’s not forget about American ranchers and farmers who stand to gain significantly more sales opportunities from each of these agreements.  For example, Panama will immediately eliminate duties on high-quality beef, frozen turkeys, most oilseeds and products, almost all fruit and fruit products, wheat, and many processed products once the U.S.-Panama trade agreement is implemented. 

And let’s also remember, too, the many American companies that support jobs right here at home by taking what they import from these trading partners and using it to produce new, made-in-the-USA goods. 

By insisting on the renewal of strengthened TAA, the President made sure to keep faith with American workers facing increased global competition.  The Trade Adjustment Assistance legislation that President Obama fought for and Congress ultimately approved reflects many improvements made to TAA in 2009: it helps displaced workers in America’s services sector as well as in manufacturing with job re-training, lower health insurance premiums, and assistance that keeps families on their feet. 

Taken together, the trade agreements and TAA are the leading edge of a job-creating trade agenda that will open markets, level the playing field for U.S. businesses and workers, and champion America’s working families in an age of tough global competition.  The simultaneous passage by Congress of key preference programs – the Generalized System of Preferences and the Andean Trade Preference Act – upholds our commitment to partner with the world’s poorest countries for economic growth.  These bills deserved the historic and widespread support they received in Congress last night.  And at USTR, we’re continuing our work to meet President Obama’s goal of doubling American exports by the end of 2014, to support at least two million additional jobs for Americans whose work is tied to trade.

Ambassador Ron Kirk is the United States Trade Representative
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