AFP Letter to the Hill Regarding Pending Free Trade Agreements

October 12, 2011 J

Dear Senators and Representatives,

As you know, both the House and the Senate will be voting on three pending free trade agreements (FTAs): one with Colombia (H.R. 3078), one with Panama (H.R. 3079), and one with South Korea (H.R. 3080). Thankfully, President Obama finally sent the agreements to Congress and is no longer blocking the economic benefits of free trade. The latter two have been pending since June 2007, the former since November 2006.

Eliminating barriers to trade improves our economy and benefits all Americans. Jobs are created when American businesses are free to export their products and compete in markets abroad. In this case, the FTAs have the potential to create up to $13 billion in new export opportunities for American businesses and thereby create hundreds of thousands of American jobs. Increased exports are not the only benefit; imports are a boon as well. Opening world markets gives consumers access to more goods and American businesses access to more raw materials for use in production, often at lower prices that help families’ pocketbooks and businesses’ bottom lines.

Nonetheless AFP has some strong concerns – not with the substance of the bills themselves, but with the terrible process and circumstances by which they have been brought before Congress.

President Obama, Senate Democrats, and even some Republicans want to tie ratification of the FTAs to funding extensions for a wasteful federal welfare program. We should not provide special benefits for so-called “trade displaced” workers, especially when we already provide generous and lengthy unemployment insurance benefits. Some workers may temporarily face unemployment as a result of market competition and innovation – but in the long run free trade makes our economy run efficiently and improves Americans’ standard of living. What’s more, the GAO has been unable to find any evidence that Trade Adjustment Assistance training programs leave displaced workers any better off. The program just doesn’t deliver on its promise.

As principled supporters of free trade, AFP urges you to consider these pacts on their own merits as a tool to grow our economy and improve our standard of living, not as a means to score political points or as a bargaining chip in a messy “tit-for-tat.” In the long term, we need a better process for the important task of removing barriers to trade. In the short term, we should ratify these long overdue measures, remove barriers to trade, and end wasteful spending on programs that simply do not work.


James Valvo
Director of Government Affairs
Americans for Prosperity

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