The Cost to American Workers of Trade Agreement Delay: $12 Billion and Counting

By August 1, 2011Trade

The three trade agreements with Colombia, Korea, and Panama have been hanging around for four years. The U.S. Government has estimated that these three agreements could generate $13 billion in added exports on an annual basis. That’s a lot, especially when you add up the exports we could have been having over the past four years if these agreements had been in effect.

But it is not just the exporting companies that would have benefited. America’s workers would have benefited as well from the additional jobs, wages and benefits that would have been earned producing those exports.

How much has the delay cost American workers? The National Association of Manufacturers has calculated, based on Commerce Department data, that had those exports not been lost, by now American workers would have earned nearly $12 billion more in added wages and benefits. What’s worse — workers’ losses are mounting by nearly $8 million every day.

Click here to view our ticker and see and see how much more American workers are losing every day, every hour, every minute and every second.

One of the main reason’s American workers have lost this much in wages and benefits is because of the erroneous, though widely-held, view that trade agreements are the cause of the manufactured goods trade deficit. This is flat out wrong. In fact, the Commerce Department’s data show exactly the opposite — American manufacturers have a trade surplus with our trade agreement partners, a surplus that has cumulated to $70 billion over the past three years and so far this year is on track for a surplus close to $40 billion.

Our manufactured goods trade deficit is with countries who have not become trade agreement partners with the United States – and that’s a problem for sure. But when it comes to countries that have entered into agreements to open their markets to our manufactured goods, we sell them more than we buy from them. That is good for American jobs, and we need more trade agreements.

President Obama is fully supportive of quick passage of the three pending agreements, and there is strong bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. The fact that American workers are losing $8 million a day waiting for the agreements is an additional powerful argument that there really is no time to waste!

Frank Vargo is vice president for international economic affairs, National Association of Manufacturers.

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