The road to pass the three pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea has at times been reminiscent of the seemingly endless drive to a favorite vacation destination – with the back seat repeatedly asking “are we there yet?” The answer, finally, is “almost.”
On the U.S.-Colombia trade agreement, the Obama Administration reached an action plan with the Santos Administration which contained two key tranches of action items, each with a deadline. Today, the U.S. Trade Representative announced that Colombia has met the requirements of the June 15th tranche of actions (a few days early, no less). This is an important milestone, and one that should be followed by immediate submission of the three pending agreements for Congressional approval.
President Santos and the Colombian people are to be commended for the swift and far-reaching actions they’ve taken in recent weeks. In meeting the commitments to the action plan, they have made first and foremost a commitment to their country to continue healing the divisions of the past and to strengthening the future.
Now that Panama’s tax treaty is passed, the first two Colombia action plan deadlines are met, and the automotive provisions in the Korea agreement have all been resolved, it’s time for votes on the agreements. And the deadline set by Chairman Camp in January of this year – July 1st – is still reachable. It will take swift action by both the Administration and Congress – but given that these three agreements will open markets worth an estimated $13 billion annually in new U.S. exports, speeding on this road is not only forgivable, it’s required.
Manufacturing in America stands to benefit from increased exports, and the three pending agreements are the fastest and easiest way to prime the pump of economic expansion. One in five U.S. manufacturing workers has a job dependent on exports. Increase our manufactured goods exports, and you’ll increase American jobs.
The slow climb out of the recession is by no means complete. And the answer to the back seat on the recovery is “not yet.” But by quickly passing these three trade agreements – and then moving to an ambitious Doha Round agreement, a strong Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and launching new bilateral negotiations with key trading partners – the answer will be “we’re getting closer.”
Doug Goudie is director of international trade policy, National Association of Manufacturers.