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Recognizing The Importance Of Trade To The United States Economy And The Importance Of Passing Free Trade Agreements With Colombia, South Korea, And Panama

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

* Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Madam Speaker, the Department of Labor has recently announced that unemployment across the country remained at double-digits and many states have followed with their own bleak statements of jobs being eliminated and families struggling.

* These continued job losses demonstrate the need to approve and implement three free trade agreements--Colombia, South Korea and Panama--that can and will ``save and create'' high value private sector jobs for Americans.

* Since 2005, 64 trade pacts have taken effect across the globe. The U.S. is a party to only five--with Australia, Bahrain, Morocco, Oman and Peru. During the same time frame, Japan has signed nine and the European Union (EU), which already has liberalized trade practices among its 27 member states, has signed eight.

* And yet, pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea that will tear down barriers to our products languish in the United States Congress. Unfortunately, there has not been a debate in Congress on the ratification of these agreements.

* When visiting South Korea in November, the President indicated that the U.S. would move forward on the pending U.S.-South Korea free trade agreement (KORUS FTA). This is a pact, signed over two years ago, which will virtually eliminate remaining tariffs between our two economies. It also takes aim at non-tariff barriers such a Seoul's burdensome safety standards that many U.S. businesses have been unable to meet and, thus, gain access to the growing Korean market.

* As the U.S. stalls, the EU is moving to fill the void. It is actively negotiating with South Korea, using many of the same principles and goals that our trade officials used years ago. In fact, there are credible estimates that the U.S. will lose 345,000 jobs if it fails to implement the KORUS FTA!

* Likewise, it has been nearly 1,100 days since President Bush sent a final U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement to Congress for implementation. In the meantime, the Canadians have completed their own deal with Colombia which will ultimately disadvantage our manufacturers and our farmers.

* So, as Congress places us firmly on the sidelines, Canada, the EU, China and other commercial competitors are taking the field and our business.

* This is not some dry, theoretical debate for my home state of New Jersey. Our businesses, large and small, and their workers, have a great deal riding on these agreements and others yet to be reached. They will create jobs here in America, in general, and in New Jersey, specifically.

* For example, the Port of New Jersey and New York is a major international gateway for our region. Today, $80 billion in commerce flows through the Port each year. Total exports from New Jersey have increased by $8.1 billion over the past five years.

* In fact, the latest data has shown that 130,500 jobs in New Jersey depend on trade. Of these, 50,500 are manufacturing jobs. Indeed, approximately one of every six manufacturing jobs in New Jersey is directly connected to trade. In addition, small businesses, America's job creators, would be among the major beneficiaries of U.S. initiatives to reduce foreign barriers to our exports.

* Understandably, there is a high level of job-related anxiety in America today. This apprehension is fueling the rise of protectionism. The President and the Congressional leadership apparently now believe that defeating or delaying these trade agreements will somehow shield American jobs. To the contrary, discarding these pending trade agreements will deny American businesses the opportunity to create or grow high quality private sector jobs here at home and cede these markets to our allies and adversaries!

* Madam Speaker, there is no doubt that Beijing, Ottawa, Tokyo and our EU friends understand the importance of trade. Our economy and, most importantly, our workers, are paying an incredibly high price for enacting these trade agreements. I urge the adoption of this resolution and the immediate ratification of the Colombia, Panama and South Korean free trade agreements.

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