Grassroots effort is no substitute for true leadership on trade

It is unfortunate indeed, that a populist movement seems necessary now to advance a trade agenda that should be led by the Obama Administration.

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Earlier this week the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, joined by Korean Ambassador to the United States Han Duk-soo and local partners, visited Orlando to meet with the state’s government and business leaders to continue its nationwide grassroots effort to promote the job-creating benefits of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS).

It is unfortunate indeed, that a populist movement seems necessary now to advance a trade agenda that should be led by the Obama Administration. Can this be another “tea party” movement that will further complicate trade policies in the future? And if it’s just another reaction to counter the influence of U.S. organized labor, can it really succeed when the President is scurrying for political cover?

The Chamber doesn’t seem to care:

“The way to meet the goal of doubling exports over the next five years is by passing this agreement,” said Tami Overby, vice president for Asia Affairs at the U.S. Chamber. “The Korea FTA is a no-cost way to create jobs and grow the economy.”

As readers of this column know, we have long been trade advocates. It is worth noting that A U.S. Chamber study warned that failing to act on the Korea FTA could cause Florida’s Gross Domestic Product (economic output) to drop by $2.1 billion. More startling, Florida could lose 19,417 jobs, while nationwide the job loss could balloon to 345,017.

Like LM, The U.S. Chamber has been calling for action on the pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. Chamber leaders observe that if Congress does act and passes the Korea FTA, a congressional study shows that it will benefit the Florida economy and create 280,000 new jobs nationwide. It will immediately open new access for the state’s goods and services into Korea’s $1 trillion economy by eliminating Korean duties on Florida’s major agricultural products, such as frozen orange juice. Similarly, Florida’s exports of medical equipment and manufactured goods will benefit from greater market access and fewer regulatory barriers.

Korea has already successfully completed a free trade agreement with the European Union that is expected to be implemented by July 1, 2011. Korea’s FTA negotiations with Canada are also in the advanced stages.
“More than 19,000 jobs in Florida are at risk if this trade accord with Korea isn’t approved,” Overby said. “The world is moving forward with free trade agreements and the United States has to get into the game if they want to see the benefits.”

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About the Author

Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]

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