McClatchy columnist Daniel Weintraub takes California lawmakers to task for opposing the Colombia Free Trade Agreement despite its many benefits for the Golden State:
Californians gain more from free trade than the people of almost any state in the country. But their leading representative in Congress – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco – is trying to kill a new trade agreement with Colombia, aligning herself with a wing of the Democratic Party that has grown increasingly hostile to consensual acts of commerce.
By itself the Colombia deal is modest. But as a symbol of this country’s commitment to trade it is huge. U.S. labor unions, especially the AFL-CIO, have made the agreement’s defeat a major goal for 2008, even though the deal would help, not hurt, American workers. And the Democrats’ two remaining presidential candidates have both opposed it.
Exports from California totaled more than $134 billion in 2007, ranking California second only to Texas among the states. More than 50,000 companies export goods from California, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, and 95 percent of those firms are companies with fewer than 500 employees. An estimated 20 percent of the state’s manufacturing work force depends on exports for jobs.
The movement of goods is by itself also a source of employment and opportunity. The jobs in the bustling ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland are some of the highest-paying blue-collar jobs around. And the services surrounding trade can also be lucrative.