February 08, 2011

Lugar: Failure to Ratify Free Trade Agreements Costing Jobs

Sen. Dick Lugar announced today that “Americans, and especially Hoosiers, are already losing jobs due to the drop in exports to Colombia and Panama because the Obama Administration is not pushing hard enough for renewed free trade agreements with those South American countries.”

“Because of uncertainty over the future of these trade pacts, Indiana has already seen its exports to Panama drop 14 percent, and fall 12 percent with Colombia,” Lugar said.

According to the Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, Indiana exports to Colombia totaled $83,526,403, and $35,096,624 to Panama in 2010. The leading Indiana exports to Colombia were chemicals at $24 million and machinery at $15 million. The leading exports to Panama were chemicals at $22 million, food at $2.7 million and computer products at $2.6 million.

Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released today a report on the need to ratify long-pending free trade agreements (FTAs) with Colombia and Panama.  The report, “Losing Jobs and Alienating Friends: The Consequences of Falling Behind on Free Trade with Colombia and Panama,” is accessible at http://lugar.senate.gov/issues/foreign/lac/.

“As Congress debates renewal of trade preferences for Colombia, which are due to expire on February 12, it should also consider the importance of retaining U.S. competitiveness in Latin America through approval of the pending FTAs,” Lugar said.  “I urge the Obama Administration to do more to build support in Congress for the agreements with Panama and Colombia.”

“Ratification of these FTAs would eliminate trade barriers and facilitate access for U.S. exporters in these countries.  Delay has already resulted in a loss of market shares and jobs for U.S. businesses as other countries have benefited from trade accords,” Lugar added. “When the Colombia- Canada FTA is implemented, as early as this summer, the immediate effect is likely to be the replacement of U.S. wheat in Colombia with lower-priced, duty-free Canadian wheat. FTA tariff reductions will also benefit Canadian heavy equipment and other capital good exports to Colombia at the expense of U.S.-manufactured products, which still face tariffs ranging from 5 to 20 percent.”

According to the report, U.S. political interests in the Western Hemisphere are also at stake. 

“Beyond the compelling economic arguments, these FTAs are important to U.S. influence and standing in the region,” Lugar said.  “Continued delay calls into question U.S. commitment to its friends in an ideologically-divided hemisphere.”

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