Florida Governor Rick Scott today called on President Obama to provide specifics in his latest speech and to send three previously negotiated free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea to Congress for immediate ratification, with no strings attached.
"Deeds are more important than words. Speeches without specifics won't fix our economy. It's long past time for President Obama to take meaningful action that includes the passage of three pending free trade agreements. For the past several years, U.S. companies, including many in Florida, have paid well over $3 billion in tariffs to Colombia and Panama for the privilege of exporting American products to those nations," said Governor Scott. "Many of those dollars could have gone a long way toward more American jobs if President Obama had sent those agreements to Congress and pushed for immediate ratification. Leadership from the President on this is long overdue."
Speculation about the content of President Obama's speech, set for tonight, includes the possibility that the President will finally take action on all three trade agreements, which would allow American companies to benefit from significantly expanded access to three lucrative international markets. But since 2006, Democrats in both Congress and the Obama Administration have taken steps to prevent the ratification of these agreements, including the passage of a special rule blocking passage of the Colombia agreement by the previous Congress, and the refusal of the Obama Administration to transmit the other agreements to the legislative branch.
This delay has effectively allowed other countries to move in and steal market share from American companies desperate for the increase in business. The opportunity for job growth in our state and throughout the United States from the ratification of these agreements simply cannot be ignored. Because of Florida's unique economic relationship with Colombia and Panama, the state stands to benefit greatly from the approval of the Latin American agreements:
* In 2010, Florida exports to Panama surpassed $1.25 billion.
* According to Enterprise Florida Inc., ratification of the agreements would increase Florida exports of products and services by at least $160 million annually.
* Ratification would also mean the elimination of duties (taxes) for 88 percent of U.S. consumer and industrial projects in Panama, with 100 percent eliminated within 10 years (15 years for some agricultural products).
* In 2010, Colombia became Florida's number-two trading partner in the world, trailing only Brazil, with Florida origin exports surpassing $2.5 billion.
* According to Enterprise Florida, Inc., ratification of the agreements would increase Florida exports of products and services by at least $532 million and create 6,400 jobs in our state.
* Ratification would also mean the elimination of duties on 80 percent of U.S. exports in the first year and on 100 percent within 10 years.
And that's just the positive impact expected in Florida alone. Given that the United States is already the primary provider of knowledge-based, transportation and financial services in both Colombia and Panama, U.S. service providers, especially those in Florida, will be well positioned to take on opportunities to expand immediately. And with Florida's commitment to port expansion, Florida can expand its role as the Gateway to Latin America.
"As the national debate on how to fix America's economy begins to heat up, any serious job creation plan must include the immediate, no-strings-attached ratification of free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea,"
Governor Scott added.