I’m excited to be here today. For four years, I have argued that we must move forward with these three pending agreements but, until recently, saw little or no progress toward that goal. The Committee held five hearings in which we heard about the job-creating benefits of these three agreements, including a series of three trade subcommittee hearings I chaired on each of the agreements. Today’s important progress is proof that the Administration heard this important message about the U.S. jobs these trade agreements represent. Now all that remains is for the President to actually send up all three agreements so that we may begin formal Congressional consideration immediately.
I hope that moving forward with the trade agreements is a good first step to restarting a robust U.S. trade agenda, with bipartisan support for opening new markets around the world for our goods and services. This boost to our ability to “Sell American” is essential if we are to achieve the Administration’s goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2014, which the President has said will create two million new jobs.
A lot of very good bipartisan work went into resolving the outstanding issues in each of the three agreements. I was disappointed that Senate Democrats and the White House abruptly departed from that spirit of bipartisanship by including trade adjustment assistance in the South Korea implementing bill. I believe that the underlying agreement that was negotiated by Chairman Camp with the White House and Chairman Baucus is a fair package because it addresses Republican concerns that the program must be significantly scaled back, with real spending cuts. However, we have to get the process right, as well.
The three trade agreements before us today will significantly lower tariffs on U.S. goods in Colombia, Panama, and South Korea and will ensure that U.S. exporters are competing on a level-playing field. The agreements also address key non-tariff and regulatory barriers. They address sanitary and phytosanitary barriers that restrict U.S. agricultural exports. They require strong protection of intellectual property rights that ensure U.S. exporters can confidently ship products abroad without worrying that their intellectual property will be stolen. And they reduce red-tape for exporters by requiring greater regulatory transparency, encouraging regulatory harmonization, and promoting the use of international standards.
The time to move forward on the trade agreements is now. Last Friday, the EU-South Korea trade agreement entered into force, putting U.S. exporters at a significant disadvantage to their European competitors. Canada and Colombia plan for their own trade agreement to enter into force August 15, further disadvantaging U.S. exporters – especially exporters in the agriculture sector. Other countries have taken advantage of our delay and have moved aggressively to sign trade agreements with our partners. As a result, many U.S. exporters face a significant competitive disadvantage.
For example, in Colombia, U.S. exporters are forced to pay higher tariffs on exports than exporters from some of our key competitors. This is already negatively affecting U.S. market share. The U.S. share of Colombia’s agricultural imports plummeted from 71 percent to 27 percent in just two years after the agricultural provisions of the Colombia-MERCOSUR trade agreement went into effect. The direct cause of that dramatic decline is our failure to implement our trade agreement. This will only get worse when Canadian wheat gets preferential access next month.
The impact of this disadvantage is felt across the country. If our exporters can’t compete because of high tariffs or other barriers, they can’t grow their businesses and put Americans back to work. That is why expanding opportunities for U.S. exporters and workers is such a critical part of putting our economy back on the right track and creating good-paying jobs.
Together we can and must press ahead on multiple fronts so we can be more competitive abroad. The new market opportunities created by these agreements will result inconsiderable new economic opportunities for American businesses, workers, farmers, ranchers, and consumers. At the same time, as we heard at each of the subcommittee hearings, these three agreements further critical strategic partnerships and bolster American foreign policy interests.
Mr. Chairman, I’m glad that today we’re taking this important step to create U.S. jobs and reestablish American leadership. Again, I urge the Administration to send up the three pending trade agreements quickly so we can finish our task – for the sake of American jobs.