Vote for Trade, Vote for Jobs
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By Thomas J. Donohue, President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Two weeks from today, Americans will vote in the most significant election in a generation. The decisions made by the next president and next Congress will impact American businesses and families for years to come. Voters must carefully examine where the candidates stand on important issues such as taxes, health care, and energy. They should also take a hard look at where the candidates stand on free and fair trade.
Exports have served to buoy our economy in these challenging times. In the second quarter of this year, U.S. exports were particularly strong, making the difference between modest growth and recession. But trade is more than a hedge against economic downturn; it is an essential element for economic growth and job creation. Nearly one in every five American jobs is linked to exports and imports of goods and services.
History has shown that raising trade barriers in times of economic anxiety is a sure recipe for disaster. The Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act—which significantly raised tariffs on imports—was signed by President Herbert Hoover in 1930 and virtually choked off international trade. American exports to Europe declined from $2.3 billion in 1929 to $784 million in 1932. Though not solely responsible for the Great Depression, these restrictions certainly played a significant role in making things worse.
Contrast that to the bipartisan trade agenda of recent years. Of the 10 countries with which the United States has signed free trade agreements (FTAs) since 2004, we are running a trade surplus with nine. Just a few years before, we were running trade deficits with six of these nine countries. In fact, if you exclude imports of foreign oil, the U.S. trade deficit has narrowed by 44% since the end of 2004 as a share of GDP and now stands at its lowest level since 1999. This represents tremendous progress for American businesses and workers, but we cannot rest on our laurels.
A good place to start would be to approve three trade agreements that have already been successfully negotiated and are lopsided to our advantage. A lame duck session following the election is likely, and the president-elect must encourage congressional leaders to ratify them at that time. A Chamber analysis shows that passage of FTAs with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea would boost U.S. exports by more than $42 billion within five years–providing jobs and economic growth at a time when America needs both. Approving them will also send a message to our friends and allies that America will remain open for business.
Trade skeptics are quick to point out that some workers lose their jobs due to trade, although many more jobs are created than lost. That's why we need well-funded, effective trade assistance programs that can equip impacted workers with the skills they need to succeed.
In casting a ballot, you are making a decision about the future of our country. A vote for free and fair trade represents a vote for economic growth, job creation, and greater opportunity for all.
To learn more visit, uschamber.com/election.