December 03, 2009

EXPORTS AND THE ECONOMY

By Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

This week, the Senate Finance Committee's Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness will be holding a hearing regarding trade policy and how exports can help on the path to economic recovery. As Ranking Member of this Subcommittee, I look forward to participating in this important discussion to examine export's place in revitalizing our nation's economy and upholding U.S. jobs.

Exports accounted for 13 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2008, yet their significance to our economy and our communities is often overlooked. Exports support Idaho jobs. It has been estimated that nearly one-fifth of all manufacturing workers in Idaho depend on exports for their jobs. Additionally, nearly 20 percent of Idaho agriculture is exported, according the Idaho Department of Agriculture. According to the Idaho Department of Commerce, export sales by Idaho companies alone totaled more than $790 million in the first quarter of 2009, and Idaho companies are selling goods to consumers all over the world. For example, Idahoans are selling vegetables in Hungary, dried Legumes in France and Kenya, furniture and bedding in India, and sound and television equipment in Malaysia. 

However, navigating foreign markets can be a challenge for U.S. companies. A number of government programs and agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Small Business Administration, and the U.S. Department of Commerce, assist exporters with trade promotion activities. For example, Boise based companies are exporting to Chile and South Africa, with assistance from the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service. The work that the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service and others are doing to assist companies with accessing foreign markets is commendable, as similar examples exist in states across the nation. Unfortunately, despite these achievements, the number of U.S. companies exporting is alarmingly low. To improve our nation's economy and global competitiveness, our nation must be doing all that we can to replicate export success stories and remove hurdles impeding U.S. companies' ability to compete globally. 

While trade promotion is an essential part of our trade policy, it is not a replacement for an expansive, successful trade agenda, which must include expanded market opportunities through advancement of trade agreements, the removal of non-tariff trade barriers and strong enforcement of existing trade commitments. It is disappointing that the Administration has not more actively pursued an assertive trade agenda to help mend our economy. Exports are a vital part of our economy, and given the current economic challenges, there is no better time to support the expansion of export opportunities and remove barriers to U.S. exports. This includes advancing the pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea, which provide equal access to those markets for U.S. goods. When implemented, each of these agreements would provide substantial duty-free access for U.S. exporters and improved footing for U.S. producers in the global marketplace. It is counterproductive to promote job creation while idling these agreements. As we look at what is working in trade promotion and the challenges that lie ahead, advancing these agreements must be a priority. For more on my trade policies please go to http://crapo.senate.gov.

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