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Tom Donohue: Trade Is Working for America

What policy can create jobs, help small businesses, boost agriculture, spur manufacturing, level the playing field for America in the global economy, offer consumers more products at more affordable prices, and do so without increasing taxes or the deficit?

Sounds like magic, right? It’s not. It’s trade.

Trade is working for America. Here’s how.

» Creating jobs. Trade supports 38 million American jobs, or more than one in every five U.S. jobs. One in three manufacturing jobs depends on exports, and one in three acres on American farms is planted for hungry consumers overseas. The expansion of trade spurred by our free trade agreements (FTAs) sustains more than 5 million of those jobs.

» Helping small businesses. More than 97 percent of the 293,000 U.S. companies that export their products are small and medium-size. While large companies account for a majority of exports, small- and medium-size ones account for nearly a third of all U.S. merchandise exports. That helps small-businesses’ bottom line, and that helps our economy grow.

» Lowering prices. Imports mean lower prices and more choices for American families as they try to stretch their budgets. Access to imports boosts the purchasing power of the average American household by about $10,000 annually.

» Reducing the trade deficit. The United States has a trade surplus with its 20 FTA partners — in manufactured, services and agricultural products. If you’re concerned about the trade deficit, FTAs are the solution — not the problem.

» Leveling the playing field. While the U.S. market is largely open to imports, many other countries continue to levy steep tariffs on U.S. exports, and foreign governments have erected other barriers against U.S. goods and services. Free trade agreements help sweep those barriers away. That makes America more competitive.

Trade does all of this without raising taxes or increasing the budget deficit.

America can up its game on trade by quickly completing a set of trade agreements with the European Union, our largest trading partner; with the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region; and with 50 countries negotiating an agreement on services, where America leads the world. And by renewing trade promotion authority, which every president since FDR has used to knock down foreign trade barriers, we can drive growth and job creation at home.

These facts speak for themselves. The case for trade is clear. It’s time to build on this success.

Ninety-five percent of the world’s customers live outside our borders. Either we find a way to open their markets and sell them our American-made goods and services or others will. And they will reap the jobs and growth that come with it.

— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The opinions expressed are his own.

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