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Howard "Buck" McKeon: Free trade agreements get Americans back to work

Guest commentary

Posted: October 23, 2011 1:30 a.m.
Updated: October 23, 2011 1:30 a.m.

America is in a jobs crisis.

For 32 consecutive months now, our country has experienced unemployment of more than 8 percent, and for only two of those 32 months did our unemployment rate fall to less than 9 percent. Our country has not seen sustained unemployment of more than 8 percent for this long since the Great Depression.

The battle scars of our stagnant economy can be seen across the country — empty store fronts, abandoned factories and warehouses and foreclosure signs have come to pass as the symbols of today’s American economy. Every time I am home, speaking to constituents, workers and business owners, I consistently hear the same thing: “What is Washington doing to create jobs?”

America was built and bred on the bedrock principle of free enterprise: Let us invent it, let us build it and let us sell it. This industrial and entrepreneurial spirit has consistently fueled America as the global leader of enterprise and prosperity. If we are going to get America working again, we have to return these founding principles to our policies. 

This past week, Congress took a significant step toward growing our economy, creating jobs and ensuring America’s global competitiveness by passing Free Trade Agreements  with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.

These agreements offer an opportunity to expand market access for U.S. goods and services with important trading partners.

They will level the playing field for American companies, boost demand for American products, increase America’s global competitiveness, give consumers more choices and lead to $13 billion in new export opportunities. Most importantly, these three agreements will create approximately 250,000 jobs without government spending.

Free trade agreements have proven to be one of the best ways to open up foreign markets to U.S. exporters. Trade agreements reduce barriers to U.S. exports, protect U.S. interests and enhance the rule of law in the FTA partner country.

The reduction of trade barriers and the creation of a more stable and transparent trading and investment environment make it easier and cheaper for U.S. companies to export their products and services to trading partner markets.

Forty-one percent of U.S. goods exports went to FTA partner countries in 2010, with exports to those countries growing at a faster rate than exports to the rest of the world.

This isn’t just an issue of national importance, it is particularly important for the state of California and the 25th District, where exports play a great role in our local economy. 

From 2008 to 2010, California exported an average of $386 million in goods to Colombia and $276 million to Panama. To put the importance of FTAs in perspective, since the U.S. entered a trade agreement with Chile in 2004, California’s exports to Chile have grown by 272 percent.

Here in the 25th District, we export more than $47 billion in merchandise and exports that directly support approximately 150,000 jobs. The 25th District stands to create more than 7,000 jobs from the FTA with South Korea alone.

Delta Scientific, a great 25th District business, is one of, if not the, world’s leading manufacturer of high-security vehicle barricade systems, parking control equipment and guard booths. At its production center in Palmdale, Delta Scientific produces and delivers vehicle access systems to customers around the globe.

More than 15,000 of these Delta systems are now deployed worldwide to protect U.S. embassies, nuclear plants, banks, stadiums, major airports, car-rental lots, logistics centers, palaces, private residences and more. Companies, such as Delta
Scientific, will now have greater opportunity to grow their share in competitive global markets and have access to new markets,  customers and demand.

Our ability to export American goods is a crucial component of our country’s economic prosperity and global competitiveness in that 20 percent of all manufacturing jobs, almost 3 million, are dependent on U.S. exports. Every $1 billion in exports generates 25,000 new jobs, spanning all sectors of our economy: manufacturing, transportation, logistics and agriculture. 

I applaud the bipartisan support and the Senate’s swift action on the passage of these trade agreements. It is time to level the playing field and protect America’s place at the global dinner table. It is time to get America working again.

Howard “Buck” McKeon is congressman for the 25th District of California, which includes the Santa Clarita Valley.


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