The efforts of House Ways and Means Committee chairman Dave Camp (R–MI) to implement long-overdue trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea may soon pay off, providing a much-needed boost to the stagnant U.S. economy.
Camp has rebuffed demands from the Obama Administration and Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus that the U.S.–South Korea Free Trade Agreement include an expanded Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program.
It is not insignificant that Camp is willing to move the trade agreements forward independently from a TAA program that he supports. Offering to separate TAA from the pending trade deals, so they all stand or fall on their merits, demonstrates the kind of leadership that advocates of expanded trade have sorely missed in recent years.
For his efforts to boost the economy and create new jobs, Camp is under attack at home. Groups that think it will hurt the economy are conducting a highly deceptive grassroots campaign alleging that these agreements will reduce the number of jobs in the United States and particularly in Michigan.
There is not a shred of economic evidence to support this wild claim. In fact, data in The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom show that countries with low trade barriers are the most prosperous in the world.
Colombia, Panama, and South Korea all currently maintain higher barriers on U.S. exports than our government imposes on imports from those countries. We can level the playing field in a beneficial way by getting rid of existing barriers to mutually advantageous commerce. Or we can get left behind as these countries implement trade agreements with other countries—the EU–South Korea Free Trade Agreement took effect just this month.
Camp has responded to critics by working hard to get Congress to consider these trade agreements on their merits. In the face of difficult opposition, his efforts are advancing the best interests of Michigan and the entire United States.