Free Trade pacts are good for Florida and the rest of America
South Florida Sun Sentinel – July 25, 2011
Florida lives on trade. As a transportation hub and the gateway to Latin America, Florida is the United States’ fifth-largest exporting state. More than 110,000 Floridians have jobs directly supported by exports. With two international airports and the Port of Miami, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metropolitan area accounts for 65 percent of all of Florida’s exports. As trade volume increases, South Florida gains.
Exports create jobs, and the Obama administration intends to double U.S. exports by 2015, in part by passing the pending trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. Combined, these agreements would increase U.S. exports by an estimated $13 billion, adding thousands of American jobs and boosting U.S. competitiveness. The agreements will build our economic and strategic partnerships and open new U.S. business opportunities in some of the world’s most dynamic markets. This is consistent with our values and good for our national interests.
In 2010, Colombia was Florida’s fifth-largest export market, with exports totaling over $2.5 billion. Colombia’s primary exports, such as coffee and flowers, do not compete with U.S. industries. By eliminating most tariffs on U.S. exports to Colombia, our exports become more competitive.
In 2010, Florida exported $1.25 billion in goods to Panama, more than Florida’s exports to China, India or Japan. Panama is one of the fastest-growing economies in Latin America, expanding by 7.5 percent in 2010. With the government of Panama planning to invest over $10 billion in infrastructure projects, commercial opportunities for Florida businesses are even brighter.
The U.S.-Korean agreement eliminates tariffs and other barriers on most agricultural products, increasing export opportunities for key Florida products such as avocados, grapefruit and beef to our seventh-largest trade partner.
These agreements not only bolster economic prosperity, they reinforce strategic alliances. Colombia, Panama and Korea are all important partners in regional trade and security. These agreements will enhance our credibility and influence in the Pacific Rim and Latin America. They will send a strong signal of support to market reformers in these regions by demonstrating the mutual benefits and prosperity that come with greater regional economic integration. That’s what smart power is all about.
These trade agreements make sense for America and for Florida. They are ready for congressional consideration. It is up to us to carry them across the finish line. In doing so, we will increase our influence, provide job opportunities for thousands of Americans and revitalize our economy.