Obama, not Congress, must act on trade agreements

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The President often mentions that in January 2009 he inherited a very difficult economic environment. He also inherited three negotiated and signed Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with Korea, Colombia and Panama. The only step left for the Obama administration was to submit the agreements to Congress for ratification: a step yet to be taken.

But that is something the president could and should do “right now.”

The President likes to talk about “creating jobs and stimulating the rural economy.” If the administration continues to sit on these trade agreements, as it has since President Obama took office more than two and a half years ago, then Congress will be left in the “do nothing” position on free trade agreements, having never been afforded the opportunity by the Obama administration to ratify the pacts that will expand U.S. trade opportunities abroad and create more jobs at home.   

Results of an impact study coordinated by the American Meat Institute highlight the high opportunity costs and job creation potential at home resulting from full implementation of these FTAs. Our study found that passage and implementation of the Korean, Colombian and Panamanian FTAs would represent an additional $2.3 billion in exports and create 29,524 badly needed jobs here at home. Many of these jobs are in rural areas of the U.S. where prospects of true economic development are seldom presented.

Not only is this roadblock hindering job creation, it’s also causing U.S. farmers, ranchers and food processors continual loss of global market share to our competitors, such as the European Union, Canada and Australia. 

In his speech, the President noted that, “There is no shortage of ideas to put people to work right now. What is needed is action on the part of Congress…”

In terms of passing these trade agreements, truly creating jobs and growing the rural economy, the ball is in your court, Mr. President.

J. Patrick Boyle is president and CEO of the American Meat Institute.