Since arriving in Congress a year and half ago, one of my main focuses has been trying to ignite our Administration to open foreign markets by submitting the pending free trade agreements. By now, we all know the statistics about how much of a disadvantage the U.S. is currently at by failing to act on those agreements in place with Colombia, South Korea and Panama. Almost 400,000 jobs not created, over $40 billion of economic opportunity lost.
In the past year, the House has passed a trillion-dollar stimulus bill, a $150 billion son-of-the-stimulus, a $15 billion “jobs” bill, a cap-and-tax bill and a massive government takeover of healthcare—all in the name of creating jobs. All the while, unemployment has hovered around 10 percent. Yet, by enacting these pending free trade agreements, we could create thousands of jobs without spending a dime.
Furthermore, by not finalizing these trade agreements, we’re putting our domestic economy at a competitive disadvantage. Take the situation in Colombia. An already-agreed-to free trade agreement has been pending congressional approval since 2006. During that time, our products have been unnecessarily charged over $2 billion in duties—money that would have been far better spent by businesses reinvesting in their companies to hire more workers or making investments and infrastructure improvements to facilitate expansion.
Moreover, by delaying the ratification of these agreements, we are losing business to all of the other countries who see the benefits of free trade agreements.
As it currently stands, Colombia is the eighth largest market in the world for sales of U.S. wheat. According to the U.S. Wheat Associates, from 2008 to 2009, 70 percent of Colombia's wheat was imported from the U.S. However, Colombia has just signed a free trade agreement with Canada and is preparing to sign a similar agreement with the European Union.
While Canadian farmers will thrive with their duty-free wheat exports to Colombia, experts estimate that the failure of the U.S. to ratify the Colombia Free Trade Agreement could lead to an annual loss of more than $92 million to our domestic wheat producers.
Washington spending has gotten out of control, and the American people are fed up with the same old methods of trying to grow the economy. But by finally ratifying these free trade agreements, we can create hundreds of thousands of jobs at no cost. The bottom line is: free trade equals free jobs. iBi