What Took You So Long To Wake Up To Trade?

In addition to all the promising changes we hope to see in our government after the Republican election landslide, the Democratic meltdown seems to have awakened President Obama’s interest in trade. Yes, we were initially optimistic that trade would take the forefront of his policies when in his State of the Union address he promised to double exports in five years. But then nothing happened.

Now he is embarking on a trip to Asia to expand trade agreements, highlighted by a trip to India. Initial reports indicate that Obama loosened U.S. trade restrictions with India that will result in a $10 billion new export deal. And guess what? This single deal is projected to create 50,000 American jobs.

Why did it take him so long to wake up to the reality that when U.S. exports increase so do American jobs? Can we hope that the grip that trade unions have on his administration is loosening so that exports no longer represent a threat to American jobs?

I read with interest remarks from Bruce Klinger, former deputy chief for Korea in the CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence, who told a Chicago Tribune reporter: “The…lack of movement by the Obama administration on trade issues has raised skepticism about U.S. trade policy.”

I bring this up because South Korea is one of the scheduled stops for the President’s trade tour. This is significant because a Free Trade Agreement with South Korea has been languishing on Capitol Hill for years. Passing a Free Trade Agreement with South Korea, who is already our 7th-largest trading partner, would add an estimated $10-12 billion dollars to our gross domestic product.

Now that Republicans, who historically have supported Free Trade Agreements, have taken back the House, my bet is that they will push the President to ratify the South Korea Free Trade Agreement. It may even be time to pass the other two Free Trade Agreements hung up in committee: Colombia and Panama.

If we want to create good American jobs, it’s time to put export expansion at the top of the new agenda for this Congress.

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