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Camp Opening Statement: Markup of the Free Trade Agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea

October 05, 2011

Thank you and welcome to the long-awaited markup of the three pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea today.

For the past five years, we have been working towards this day.  These agreements enjoy broad bipartisan, bicameral support, and are the product of a lot of hard work from all sides.  I would also like to extend my appreciation to the President for sending these trade agreements to Congress.

Today’s markup couldn’t come at a better time.  With zero jobs created last month and the unemployment rate hovering above nine percent, we must look at all opportunities to create American jobs.  These agreements do just that.

According to the president’s own measure, these three agreements have the potential to create and support 250,000 American jobs, all without adding one dime of new government spending.  Combine that with the opportunity to add over $10 billion to our Gross Domestic Product, as these agreements do, and we know we’re on the right path.   

These agreements not only level the playing field for American workers, they also allow American companies to get off the sidelines and capture market share so they can sell more American goods around the world.  That’s great news for America’s workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses, who have long-waited for these agreements.
Currently, America is at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to trade due to the tariff and non-tariff barriers we face when trying to export goods.  The additional taxes Americans are forced to pay allow our competitors to sell their goods and services at a lower cost than American products.  These agreements change that:

  • The South Korea agreement would eliminate many of the tariffs we face immediately and require South Korea to open new markets up to U.S. goods and services.  
  • The current tariff on U.S. exports to Panama goes as high as 90 percent.  Meanwhile the average tariff faced by Panamanian exports to the United States is less than 0.1 percent.  But this agreement would level the playing field by making over 87 percent of our manufacturing exports duty free immediately.  
  • In Colombia, our exports face an 11 percent tax while imports from Colombia face a tariff of less than one percent.  Our agreement would immediately reduce the average tariff that our exporters face by more than 68 percent.

These agreements make trade fairer for America, not just by reducing tariffs but by removing non-tariff barriers, improving intellectual property protection, and increasing transparency.

Over the last five years, our inaction has allowed America to fall behind.  Our global competitors such as the EU and Canada have filled that void — wining contracts and jobs that could have gone to American companies and American workers.

These agreements create sustainable and well-paying jobs and it is my expectation that when we finish our work here today, the House will vote on the agreements and on the GSP/TAA package as soon as possible so that America can start to reap the benefits.