In an economy fighting for every job it can find, you would think the possibility of thousands of new ones would find universal support. Not when it comes to global trade.
It’s tough to get excited about trade with Panama. After all, the biggest American export to Panama is diesel. It’s about the same for Colombia. Most “Made in America” products there are petroleum and chemicals. South Korea, meantime, spends a couple billion dollars each month buying U.S. made semiconductors, heavy machinery and corn.
But together, these three international markets represent the biggest trade partner for the U.S. after Germany. How Congress treats these new trade deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama is important for U.S. jobs and the hope to pull the economy out of a rut through exports.
A Congressional subcommittee is expected to begin reviewing these three deals next week. These trade pacts have been four years in the making. They would open up South Korea for more American-made automobiles. They would eliminate tariffs on American aircraft sold in Colombia. And they would drop taxes on U.S. pharmaceuticals sent to Panama.
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This is a global contest for business. China is forging ever-stronger ties with Latin America, looking for raw materials such as oil, grains and copper. Korea would love to sell more cars in China.
Trade can be a building block of prosperity. It also can erode job security and wages. That’s why these three trade deals are tied to an effort to spend hundreds of millions of American taxpayer dollars on U.S. workers displaced by global trade. The money goes toward employee retraining, relocation and income support for workers who have been hurt by an increase in foreign imports.
Today’s American jobs are important, but so are creating the conditions for tomorrow’s opportunities.