With overwhelming bipartisan support, Congress today approved long-stalled free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. The approval paves the way for a $13 billion boost in exports to the countries and could create tens of thousands of jobs.
Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA), who supported the agreements, stressed the huge impact of exports in Georgia and the potential for job creation.
"From our world-famous Vidalia onions to chemicals, machinery to cotton, and carpets to boats, exports are big in Georgia," said Kingston. "Last year, Georgia exported $28.9 billion worth of goods and exports supported more than 82,000 jobs.
"These free trade agreements will create new opportunities, expand market access and level the playing field for Georgians. Together they will be a much-needed shot in the arm and will empower businesses to create jobs."
While Georgia already maintains huge trade relationships with the three countries -- exporting more than $1.1 billion to them in 2010 -- reducing tariffs on Georgian goods stands to increase the relationship and boost Georgia's economy dramatically if past free trade agreements are an indication.
Since the 2004 ratification of the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, Georgia's exports to the country increased by 204 percent. A similar agreement with passed that same year has allowed Georgia's exports to Chile to see a 158 percent expansion.
Support for the agreements ranges the many diverse industries in the State of Georgia.
"It's good to see the President and Congress working together to move forward with the South Korea, Colombia, and Panama free trade agreements," Georgia Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall said. "These agreements are good for Georgia agriculture. USDA estimates that exports from Georgia alone will increase nearly $45 million annually."
Agriculture will not be the only Georgia-based industry to benefit from the trade agreements. John Patterson, Chairman and CEO of heavy equipment manufacturer JCB in Savannah, sees national and local implications for manufacturers.
"I welcome the House passage of the free-trade deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea," said Patterson. "These agreements will provide a powerful boost to U.S. exports, and will help to make us more competitive in key markets globally. This is particularly good news for JCB as we currently export to these nations and this will help us to continue to expand at our Savannah plant - which means more jobs locally."
In addition to their economic impact at home, Kingston stressed their strategic importance for American interests abroad.
"These free trade agreements will create jobs here at home without costing taxpayers a dime," said Kingston. "At the same time, they will strengthen our strategic allies and help stable, democratic economies grow around the world."