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Op-Ed: Pass Free Trade Agreements Now


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Global markets have changed and competition has increased over the last 60 years but the United States remains the world's largest manufacturer and provider of services. In fact, much of our economic growth in recent years can be attributed to robust international trade. According to the US Chamber of Commerce, more than 1 in 5 American jobs depend on international trade.

During his 2010 State of the Union Address, President Obama announced an initiative to double exports over the next five years. The goal is critical to create jobs, spur innovation, and maintain our competitive advantage. In order to move forward with this laudable effort, Congress must pass pending Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with Korea, Colombia, and Panama, as well as proceed in negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

These pending agreements offer cost-free stimulus for the American economy. An agreement with Korea alone could lead to more than a $10 billion increase in exports to Seoul and tens of thousands of new jobs in the United States. In uncertain economic times, this is an outstanding opportunity for job growth and increased production.

Last week, Korea and the European Union signed their own agreement. Colombia and Canada are in negotiations over an FTA. The U.S. cannot afford to let new trade opportunities pass by while other nations rapidly sign agreements. The combination of inaction on our part and increased demand in the global marketplace means not only lost opportunities for traditional benefactors of vigorous overseas trades such as manufacturers, but newer export products such as those offered by the U.S. service industry are especially likely to miss out.

The service industry accounts for an astonishing 80% of GDP and provides over 80% of our nation's private sector jobs. In 2009 the U.S. had a $160 billion trade surplus in private services trade. Despite this, the service sector accounts for only 31% of American exports. The massive trade barriers the U.S. services industry faces in foreign markets have a significant and negative impact on their ability to export.

This week, international business leaders and government officials from around the world are coming together in Washington, D.C. for the Global Services Summit. As the summit convenes, we are reminded that we must press forward on these languishing trade agreements.

This is a perfect opportunity for Congress to work in a constructive and bipartisan fashion. We must enact policies that will grow the economy and eliminate barriers that inhibit job creation for large and small businesses alike and provide the catalyst our economy needs: a more open marketplace.

For more information on Rep. Paulsen's work in Congress, please visit

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