By Rep. Adrian Smith
After years of negotiations, the United States signed and approved trade agreements with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea in 2011, and all three agreements went into effect in 2012. Each of these agreements brings mutual economic benefits and expands export opportunities for Nebraska goods and products. They also help protect American interests.
As Nebraska producers continue to expand their sales around the world, some nations are not playing by the rules. They are using non-scientific standards to exclude Nebraska products and protect their own domestic industries. For example, in early 2013 Russia attempted to improperly block Nebraska beef from its marketplace based on the use of a common feed additive which is approved under international scientific standards. The U.S was able to use the threat of legal action to overturn the ban and ensure American products reached Russian consumers. New and updated trade agreements would help the United States hold additional nations accountable for their trading practices, and help establish better international relationships through mutual economic benefit.
The 2011 trade agreements strengthened our partnerships with three strategic American allies in volatile regions. We are now working on two agreements, which if properly negotiated, have the potential to strengthen and protect our interests and our influence around the world, while benefiting Nebraska exporters and consumers on a much larger scale.
Some would prefer we sit on the sidelines of these negotiations; but if the U.S. fails to lead, the global agenda could be driven by countries with social and economic objectives unlike ours. Other nations are not waiting for the United States to move forward with aggressive trade agendas, and our exports would be placed at a serious disadvantage if we do not take a leadership role in talks and insist other countries to adopt high-level standards.
Because 95 percent of consumers live outside of our borders, we cannot wall ourselves and our economy off from the world. There is a growing market for American manufactured goods and agricultural products. According to the International Trade Administration, the U.S. had a nearly $60 billion surplus in manufactured products with our 20 trade agreement partners in 2012; a figure which would be even higher if it included unprocessed agriculture commodities.
Nebraska merchandise exports, including agriculture, totaled $7.4 billion in 2012. According to the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, every dollar in agricultural exports generates $1.34 in economic activities such as transportation, financing, warehousing, and production.
In order to enhance U.S. leverage in the marketplace and update congressional authority and ability to provide direction to the Administration in trade negotiations, we need to pass the Bipartisan Trade Priorities Act which was introduced in the House and Senate earlier this month. This legislation would enhance congressional oversight of trade negotiations and update and renew the Administration’s authority to pursue high-level trade agreements. By renewing this authority, we would also demonstrate seriousness about enforcing strong American standards to our negotiating partners as work continues to finalize these agreements. The previous authority, which was used to negotiate the 2011 agreements, was passed more than a decade ago and has since expired.
As a member of the Committee on Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee, I will continue to lead efforts to promote trade exports with modern, scientific, and fully enforceable standards. When we support Nebraska exporters, we help grow our economy, enhance American interests, and promote consumer choice around the world.