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Free Trade Agreements

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mrs. BIGGERT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I thank you so much for hosting this Special Order and all the work that you have done.

Given the extraordinary economic challenges that we face, I can't think of a better or more appropriate topic for Congress to be addressing here today than trade. Let's face it, the pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea should have been enacted long ago. And only today, after years of delay, has the White House finally transmitted the agreement to Congress for ratification. As a result, we have been forced to wait while sales and jobs are lost to other countries that do not face the same trade barriers that U.S. exporters face. On many products, tariffs would have come down immediately upon enactment of these FTAs, giving a massive boost to our economy at a time when we need it more than ever.

In my home State of Illinois, I have visited with businesses like Hendrickson, Caterpillar, and Navistar, all major players holding their breath, ready to export millions of dollars of U.S.-made goods to new markets opened by these agreements. Right now in Illinois, a company like Caterpillar has to pay a $200,000 tariff for just one heavy-duty earth mover going into Colombia, while Colombian exports come into the U.S. nearly duty free. That is $200,000 that could instead stay in America with the free trade agreement and supply jobs in my district and nationwide. All told, these FTAs would support an estimated quarter-million American jobs and increase exports by $13 million.

Perhaps most importantly, these aren't temporary or low-wage jobs that will disappear when taxpayer-funded stimuluses run dry. In fact, these exported-related jobs pay an average of 15 to 17 percent more than other comparable jobs and don't cost taxpayers a dime. And the benefits aren't limited to manufacturing. U.S. exports in services and agricultural goods stand to increase by billions of dollars.

Passing these agreements is one of the most common-sense, low-cost and economically sound things that Congress, in the President's own words, ``could do right now'' to boost job growth. And yet only today, after years on the President's desk, has the administration finally sent them to Congress for approval.

Fortunately, the end is in sight. With the agreements now in motion, the House and Senate will at long last have an opportunity in the coming days to pass all three pending agreements. I urge my colleagues to support them.

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