Mr. Speaker, today is a good day. Many of us have been working for years for the opportunity to approve our pending trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. We have called on the President throughout his term to submit all three agreements to Congress, but opposition among some Democrats led many to believe that we would have to settle for just one or two of the agreements. Today, we have all three pending agreements before us. Approving them will resuscitate the U.S. trade agenda, create good U.S. jobs, and help get our economy moving again.
The U.S. International Trade Commission has estimated that the three agreements will increase U.S. exports by at least $13 billion. By the President’s own estimation, that could generate 250,000 new jobs. The ITC has also determined that these agreements will increase U.S. GDP by at least $10 billion – a stimulus that doesn’t cost a single dime in government spending.
This agreement disproportionately benefits the U.S. because it rectifies the current imbalance in U.S.-Colombian trade. Last year, Colombian exporters paid virtually no tariffs when they shipped goods here, but our exporters paid an average tariff of over eleven percent. The agreement removes that imbalance by eliminating Colombian duties. The need is urgent: our exporters have paid nearly $4 billion in unnecessary duties since this agreement was signed.
We know from experience that these agreements will yield benefits. Between 2000 and 2010, total U.S. exports increased by just over 60 percent – but our exports to countries with which we have trade agreements increased by over 90 percent. Our exports to Peru, for example, more than doubled since passage of the U.S.-Peru trade agreement, from $2.7 billion in 2006 to $6.1 billion in 2010. That’s $2.4 billion more than the ITC had forecast.
In the face of this major economic opportunity, delay has been costly. Major economies whose workers and exporters compete directly with ours have moved aggressively to sign and implement trade agreements with Colombia, undermining our competitive edge. Our workers and job-creating exporters are falling behind, losing export market share that took years to build. For example, the U.S. share of Colombia’s corn, wheat, and soybean imports fell from 71 percent in 2008 to 27 percent in 2010 after Argentina’s exporters gained preferential access to the Colombian market. And after Canada’s trade agreement with Colombia went into effect on August 15, Colombia’s largest wheat importer dropped U.S. suppliers in favor of Canadian wheat. Adding insult to injury, Canada signed its trade agreement with Colombia two years after we signed our agreement with Colombia. In short, we owe it to U.S. workers and exporters to approve this agreement now and to press the President for prompt implementation.
It’s not only considerable economic benefits that are at stake. The delay in implementing these agreements has left strong allies out in the cold. Colombia, for example, currently sits with the United States on the UN Security Council and chairs its Iran Sanctions Committee. Colombian troops have served alongside U.S. troops at war, and Colombia has been training militaries and police around the world in counter-narcotics and counter-insurgency. As five former commanders of U.S. Southern Command have said, “[T]his agreement will meet our duty to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Colombians as they have stood by the United States as friends and allies.”
I urge my colleagues to join me in approving this important agreement.