I want to compliment Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack. He has been promoting renewable energy, stressing how that can mean thousands of jobs in rural America. He reminds us that a one billion dollar increase in ag exports creates 9,000 private sector jobs. His agenda is positive for job creation. President Obama says that he wants to double our exports. That could mean thousands of jobs that we desperately need.
But what is the President doing to accomplish his worthy goal? Nothing! Four years ago, we negotiated the Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, projected to increase ag exports by $815 million. Three years ago, we negotiated the South Korean Free Trade Agreement, which projects an increase in ag exports of nearly $2 billion.
It is the Administration’s responsibility to send these agreements to the Congress and their obligation to vote them up or down. But they just sit on the shelf gathering dust. All the while, other competing countries are writing agreements with countries all over the world. We lose ground every day we sit on our hands. Since we negotiated our agreement with Colombia, our ag exports to that country have declined by 50%.
Our customers are losing faith in us.
On top of that, the President does not have authority to negotiate new trade agreements now. That authority ran out during the Bush Administration and President Obama has not asked the Congress to renew it so he can negotiate. President Bill Clinton had the authority and was very active in negotiating trade deals.
Besides jobs, there is a very important strategic opportunity that we are missing. Passing those agreements would demonstrate our close ties and support for South Korea in its stand-off with North Korea after the sinking of the South Korean ship. Passing the Colombian agreement would remind Hugo Chavez and Venezuela that we work with and support our friends.
“Double exports and create thousands of jobs?” Unless we do something, those are just words.
In closing, I would encourage you to access my website which archives my radio commentaries dating back 10 years and will go back 20 years when complete. Check on what I said back then. Go to www.johnblockreports.com
Until next week, I am John Block in Washington.