By Rep Kenny Marchant
Last week President Barack Obama sent Congress the long-delayed trade deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. The trade agreements will provide the U.S. -- and Texas in particular -- bold solutions to economic recovery.
There is an excellent case for the trade deals to pass. Simply put, the trade agreements create more jobs, increase exports and broaden economic growth.
At a time when U.S. unemployment hovers above 9 percent -- including 8.5 percent in Texas -- engines of job growth are needed. As the independent International Trade Commission points out, the three trade agreements would increase U.S. exports by $13 billion. Such growth could create approximately 250,000 new jobs in America, according to the president's measure.
While more jobs are good news for the country as a whole, Texas in particular stands to benefit from increased trade. In today's globalized economy, Texas depends more than ever on world markets.
Exports of manufactured goods alone support an estimated 732,000 jobs in Texas, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. The trade deals are expected to boost jobs in Texas powerhouse industries such as manufacturing, agriculture and chemicals, to name a few.
Businesses in the Dallas-Fort Worth area are positioned for big gains. DFW Airport, one of the world's leading trade gateways, already handles almost 65 percent of all international air cargo in Texas. The trade agreements would increase shipments of goods from DFW to some of the most lucrative Latin American and Asian markets.
Trade benefits all shapes and sizes of businesses. In 2008, for example, 22,294 export firms in Texas were small and medium-sized enterprises with fewer than 500 employees. That translates to the fourth highest number of export firms in the country. With enhanced capacity to sell goods and services to Colombia, Panama and South Korea, the number of small and medium-sized businesses -- the backbone of America's economy -- should only increase.
No matter the business size, open markets make the United States a significantly more competitive trading partner. As the trade deals languished in Washington over the last several years, global competitors raced ahead: the European Union struck a trade deal with South Korea, a Canada-Colombia pact took force, and emerging economies -- notably Brazil, China and India -- aggressively courted new markets. If Congress fails to pass the trade agreements, America risks being left behind as other countries strike new trade alliances.
Lessons from history make plain that economic isolationism inflicts serious damage to our domestic economy and severely disrupts the global economic system. Look no further than the Smoot-Hawley tariff of the 1930s, which increased trade barriers in a particularly fragile economy, and led to disastrous results and contributed to the Great Depression. Protectionism, whether in the form of high tariffs or stalled trade deals, is a false comfort that not only fails to spur economic growth, but in fact sets us backward.
It may be tempting to look inward during periods of economic slowness, but it is during such periods that countries benefit most from economic boosts available through trade. The International Trade Commission estimates that the three trade pacts will increase U.S. gross domestic product by nearly $10 billion. The beneficial impact will be particularly relevant to Dallas-Fort Worth, one of the nation's leading commercial hubs.
While the trade agreements are no silver bullet to fix the economy, they put America on the right path. I applaud those who have long pushed for the agreements, notably Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas and former Dallas Mayor and current U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. But unless Congress quickly passes the trade deals, America will be senselessly deprived of a proven path toward economic recovery.