Looking to the Future: Trade Victories Lay a Solid Foundation

By Greg Slater, director of Global Trade and Competition Policy at Intel

Last night was historic. There is no doubt that the three Free Trade Agreements (FTA) approved by Congress will boost the U.S. economy for decades to come. However, we may soon forget how much work went into these agreements. U.S. officials spent thousands of hours advocating the FTAs after they were signed by our President and South Korean Ambassador Han visited 31 states and 57 cities to persuade many skeptical Americans that increased trade delivers major economic benefit to them.

Last Spring, Intel invited the Ambassador to speak to our employees in New Mexico so they would better understand how foreign markets worked. Yesterday, in a roundtable discussion with various trade associations and companies, South Korea’s President Lee and Ambassador Han praised the sophisticated and extensive collaboration that has existed among FTA supporters. Despite this collaboration and broad support, it took more than five years from the inception of the U.S – Korea FTA (KORUS) to its passage last night.

To be sure, KORUS is the largest FTA the U.S. has negotiated in over a decade. As South Korea’s President Lee stressed yesterday KORUS sends a powerful message to the global community that both our governments stand for the principles of free, fair and open trade. This message is sorely needed for two reasons.

First, we have a major challenge concerning mounting protectionism in the face of widespread economic problems. Isolationism no longer works in a global economy, but unfortunately it is a natural reaction in the face of increasing competition.

Second, while trade barriers are increasing in certain critical areas of the world, the number of trade agreements addressing those barriers is exploding; yet the U.S. is being left behind. According to the WTO, there are at least 380 trade agreements around the world of which 202 are currently in force and many others remain in various stages of negotiation. Korea alone has entered into 45 FTAs. In contrast, the United States has just 20 FTAs overall and only three agreements with countries in the Asia Pacific area – the region that is most critical for exports of U.S. goods and services.

My hope is that last night does not signify so much the end of a multi-year negotiation process involving three valuable FTAs, but more the beginning of a new and aggressive bipartisan U.S. trade agenda. The U.S. cannot afford to take another five years to open up additional key markets, or U.S. competitiveness will continue to suffer.

How can we multiply by 10 the 250,000 new jobs and the extra $10 billion in U.S. gross domestic product that the three FTAs passed last night by Congress are expected to produce? The answer: By negotiating additional robust FTAs. Intel looks forward to supporting the U.S. government’s effort to open up more markets on an accelerated basis so we can rapidly increase U.S. exports and the jobs they produce.

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