Alabama’s agriculture commissioner believes that the State of Alabama could gain 15,000 jobs if Congress ratifies three free-trade agreements that President Barack Obama will be sending to the U.S. Senate. Commissioner John McMillan is urging support for free-trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. Unlike some earlier international trade agreements that resulted in lost jobs for American workers, the Commissioner believes these agreements could mean significant job growth in Alabama.
The U.S. Senate must ratify the agreements with a two-thirds margin for them to take effect. As we know all too well, free trade agreements weren’t very popular after passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994. Millions of U.S. jobs were sent overseas and, with good reason, Congress became hesitant to ratify any new trade agreements with other countries. But I believe the trade agreements mentioned above are needed.
International trade would mean job creation, especially for farmers and agribusinesses. Every $1 billion generated from exports means 15,000 jobs, according to Commerce Department figures. Alabama is in a good position to generate another $1 billion in exports, with much of it coming from the state’s $5 billion agriculture industry. Many of us forget that agriculture is our state’s largest industry. According to Commissioner McMillan, about 15% of manufacturing sector jobs also depend on exports.
The trade agreements would make U.S. products cost less in the countries involved. Alabama products are in demand in those countries, including poultry, wood products, peanuts, pecans and medical supplies and equipment. The U.S. previously had a trade agreement with Colombia that expired. Trade to that country dropped during the past ten years because high tariffs made U.S. products too costly. Even so, Colombia is the 21st largest trade partner for the U.S.
Former Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks had pushed sale of Alabama products to Cuba. Alabama still sells to Cuba and is ready to expand exports to Latin America and the Caribbean. The Port of Alabama in Mobile is very important to the exporting of Alabama agricultural products. Also, the Panama Canal is being widened. That project should be complete in 2014 and it will be good for Alabama’s export business.
Source: Agriculture Department News Release
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