Mr. KIND. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of the Panama trade agreement, as well as the Colombia and South Korea agreements before us today. And in the matter of Panama, to Panama's credit and to Panama's Parliament's credit, they realize that in order for this trade agreement to be fully considered by the Congress, they had to make improvements in regards to the tax havens of their country. And as the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee pointed out, they did that. They took that additional step removing them from the ``Gray List'' of tax havens internationally.
But that brings me to the larger point. When President Obama took office, I believe he inherited three pretty good trade agreements at his desk negotiated by the previous administration; but he knew that they could be improved upon, which they immediately set out to do. And to the credit of many members of the Ways and Means Committee, especially the chairman and the ranking member both from Michigan, and the tireless efforts they put into improving these trade agreements, we finally reached the point where we could get back in the game.
At just 4 percent of the world's population, we have to be engaged with a proactive trade agenda; but the last time we had a trade agreement before this Congress has been roughly 6 years ago while other nations have been moving on with bilateral and multilateral agreements. That's too long when we have a floundering economy. Not that these trade agreements are going to be the panacea to rapid and significant job growth, but they will be helpful. In fact, countries like Panama and Colombia have virtually duty-free access to our country's markets already.
So the question is whether or not we want to try to level the playing field for our workers, for our businesses, and for the jobs being created here in the United States. And in the specific case of Panama, tariff reductions will be significant that will lead to further job growth in both the manufacturing, the service and the agricultural sectors alone.
But I commend the Obama administration and the team at the USTR led by Ambassador Kirk with the work they did in improving this Panama trade agreement, along with Colombia and South Korea, putting them in a position where there can be bipartisan support, and more importantly, to get us back into the arena of active trade which will help create jobs here at home.