September 27, 2010

Let Loose U.S. Innovation

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Creative Idaho businesses are producing innovative products meeting the needs of consumers around the world. PakSense manufactures and exports to sixty countries smart labels used to determine the quality and safety of products, including food and pharmaceuticals, during shipping. Exports are twenty-five percent of PakSense's sales. Another Idaho company, Meyer Industries, produces a machine to humanely and environmentally-eliminate burrowing pests. Exports account for nearly half of the company's sales and more than thirty percent of the company's jobs. Last month, both small businesses' export successes were recognized through U.S. Chamber of Commerce awards presented at a jobs and trade forum I co-hosted.

We hear criticism of trade, and there are negative impacts. However, exports of U.S. goods and services support U.S. jobs. Nearly one-fifth of manufacturing workers in Idaho depend on the export of goods and services for their jobs, and export-supported jobs pay statistically higher wages. Idaho companies exported more than $3.88 billion in goods and services during 2009. Replicating export successes and eliminating barriers, such as high foreign tariffs, on U.S. goods and services, are critical to improving the competitiveness of Idaho and U.S. companies, strengthening the U.S. economy and increasing U.S. jobs.

Identifying steps to achieve the goal of U.S. export expansion is an objective of the President's Export Council (PEC), to which I was appointed. The PEC, comprised of private-sector appointees, Cabinet officials and ten bipartisan members of Congress, advises the White House on trade policy. The PEC is considering policy recommendations seeking increased U.S. access to markets. Expanding exports of U.S. goods and services has also been a focus of the Senate Finance Committee's Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness, on which I serve as Ranking Member.

Reducing tariffs on exports of U.S. goods and services kindles business growth and competitiveness. Advancing pending free trade agreements (FTAs) with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, which provide equal access to those markets for U.S. goods, is essential to many Idaho companies. It has been estimated that, if implemented, the FTA negotiated with Colombia would increase exports of U.S. products by more than $1 billion. Idaho producers would benefit from the removal of duties on peas, lentils, dry beans, apples, cherries, potatoes, wheat, barley, prime and choice cut beef and dairy products through the agreement. The FTA with South Korea is estimated to boost exports of goods by nearly $11 billion. Additionally, the FTA with Panama would provide duty-free entry for 88 percent of U.S. exports of goods and services. These FTAs provide important market growth potential for U.S. producers, and many are rightly asking for prompt approval.

Unfortunately, the agreements have been stymied for years awaiting concrete Administration action to address mostly politically-motivated concerns with the agreements. Currently, the U.S. is sitting virtually idle as nations are actively pursuing trade agreements throughout the world leaving U.S. producers, businesses and workers at a competitive disadvantage. A productive and speedy elimination of market barriers to U.S. innovation is best for our nation's workers and small businesses. I will continue to press the Administration to progress in working with Congress to advance the agreements.

Even with our successes, there is enormous further potential for Idaho exports. Idahoans are producing inventive goods and high-quality agriculture products sought around the world. Idahoans are exporting television equipment to Malaysia and France, vegetables to Hungary, aircraft parts to Kenya, furniture and bedding to India, photography equipment to Italy, fertilizer to New Zealand and much more. Letting loose U.S. innovation by removing impediments to U.S. export growth, including advancing free trade agreements, can best ensure the full realization of this potential.

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