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Congress Passes Trade Agreements

Exports: Pacts will help open markets and create manufacturing jobs, advocates say

by Glenn Hess
October 17, 2011 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 89, Issue 42

Credit: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images/Newscom
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak speaks during an Oct. 13 ceremony at the White House.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak speaks during his arrival ceremony at the White House in Washington, DC, on October 13, 2011.
Credit: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images/Newscom
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak speaks during an Oct. 13 ceremony at the White House.

Congress approved long-stalled free-trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea last week. Proponents say the action will create new export opportunities for U.S. manufacturers by lowering tariffs and removing other discriminatory barriers.

Chemical industry officials say the deals will enable them to create jobs by expanding sales in these key markets. “This is an historic step forward for the U.S. and our economy, as America has now made great strides in reestablishing its commitment to open trade, global markets, and leadership on high-standard trade agreements,” says Andrew N. Liveris, chairman and CEO of Dow Chemical.

“The U.S. is no longer sitting on the sidelines but is actively creating opportunities for business and job growth,” adds Lawrence D. Sloan, president and CEO of the Society of Chemical Manufacturers & Affiliates, an industry trade group.

The White House says together the three agreements will boost U.S. exports by $13 billion per year and create tens of thousands of jobs. Most of the export increase is projected to come from the pact with South Korea, which is already America’s seventh-largest trading partner.

The agreement, the White House says, will give U.S. manufacturers “unprecedented access to Korea’s nearly $1 trillion economy.” More than half of U.S. chemical exports to South Korea will receive duty-free treatment immediately, with the remaining tariffs phased out within a decade.

The trade agreements were first negotiated during the George W. Bush Administration, but they languished for years over concerns by organized labor and some Democrats that they would hurt American workers and kill jobs (C&EN, Sept. 26, page 23).

The pacts will lead to “phenomenal job creation—the only problem is the jobs are being created in foreign nations,” Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.) said during the House debate.

But most lawmakers said the U.S. will benefit because countries such as South Korea impose far more barriers to U.S. exports than the U.S. puts on their products. “Our markets are overwhelmingly open to countries all around the world,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said. “Again and again, we find that our trading partners have significant barriers and are remarkably closed to us.”



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