Despite the clear economic benefits of trade, almost every story about the recent agreements with Panama, South Korea and Colombia included at least one hard-core opponent decrying the impact of trade. This raises the question: after years of delay, why did three deals -- pillars of the GOP economic agenda -- receive overwhelmingly bipartisan support? The truth is that trade grows our economy, and these pacts will create about 250,000 good-paying American jobs.
Trade agreements lower prices for U.S. consumers and open new markets for our goods. Illinois is among the first to benefit, especially in my suburban district where over 64,000 people are employed through exports. Illinois ranks sixth among the states, exporting over $48.4 billion last year. And it's not just workers at big companies who benefit -- 90 percent of Illinois exporters are small businesses.
Often, opponents of free trade point to the transition after NAFTA and CAFTA and blame these pacts for the loss of U.S. jobs. The reality is that the U.S. enjoys a net trade surplus in manufactured goods with its 17 free trade agreement partners. And even small agreements have yielded gains for Illinois, where, for example, exports to Chile increased by 400 percent after the 2004 agreement.
Our new pacts promise even stronger results. As the world's 15th largest economy, Korea is so ripe for U.S. exports that the agreement won major union backing from U.S. auto and food workers. And since the vast majority of goods from Colombia and Panama already enter the U.S. duty-free, new benefits largely will fall to U.S. companies and workers. In short, these deals represent one of the most common-sense, low-cost and economically sound actions that Washington can take right now to boost job growth. That's why free trade won.
U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert
13th Congressional District