President Obama’s trip to Asia this week comes at a critical economic time for American workers. With unemployment eclipsing 10 percent, it’s clear that the stimulus package passed by Congress has so far proven ineffective in getting Americans back to work.
Free trade, a pillar of economic recovery that has been overlooked, plays a pivotal role in growing our economy and creating American jobs. Opening new markets to trade is a proven stimulus and job creator that comes without a several hundred billion dollar bill for taxpayers.
Among the many stops on his trip this week, President Obama will visit South Korea, a critical trading partner for the U.S. and one with whom we’ve had a free trade agreement pending congressional approval for more than two years. This visit presents the President the perfect opportunity to convey to the world that the U.S. remains open to global trade, and to assure American workers we will continue to support them and pursue every opportunity to create jobs and spur innovation.
Whether large or small, American businesses across the country produce the very best goods and services, but 95% of our customers are outside of the United States. Their customers are not only on Main Street but in ports, cities and communities across the globe. We can create U.S. jobs by knocking down barriers between the products and services and those who demand them.
Just as enacting pending trade agreements can stimulate job creation, inaction can result in further job losses. America cannot afford to stand on the sidelines and fail to act while our competitors forge ahead to open new markets to benefit their countries, citizens and economies. A recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce study revealed that we could lose 350,000 American jobs if we do not enact the US-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) before the European Union implements an agreement of its own.
America must not just participate in the global economy; we must lead the global economy. Thus far, this Administration’s trade agenda – or rather, its lack thereof – is disappointing. In fact, this Administration’s only significant trade action was to impose a protectionist new tariff on tire imports, while pending free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama continue to languish without congressional consideration.
Our lagging economy demands action, and a robust trade agenda will deliver a much-needed shot in the arm.
While meaningful debate over trade often falls victim to partisan politics that distort the issues at hand, the Administration should heed to the voices recognizing the role trade plays to stimulate economic recovery. On November 5, 44 House Democrats and 44 House Republicans from all regions of the country joined Representative Adam Smith (D-WA) and me in urging the Administration to prepare the KORUS FTA for congressional consideration.
These supporters note: “Trade, especially when fair and with a close trading partner, is integral to our economic recovery strategy. …we are concerned about the potential impact on U.S. competitiveness and jobs by not moving forward on KORUS.”
The U.S. must continue to push for free trade agreements that can stimulate job creation across the country. Americans are seeking proven, common-sense solutions for economic recovery that will stabilize and secure our workforce.
Foreign markets demand U.S. goods and services and capable workers stand ready to produce them. Let us act now to remove the barriers preventing American employers from engaging new customers around the world, and once and for all recognize that free trade is the crucial economic stimulus that can no longer be overlooked.
The views expressed by guest bloggers on the Foundry do not necessarily reflect the views of the Heritage Foundation.