Trade is important to Kentucky’s economy and job growth

by KDEC on June 10, 2015

By Senator Mitch McConnell for The Floyd County Times

June 3, 2015

A recent guest opinion piece (“Kentucky workers need better trade policies, not worse,” May 19) in your newspaper claimed that tearing down foreign trade barriers would be bad for our commonwealth. The fact is, creating more opportunities for Kentucky farmers and manufacturers to sell products stamped ‘Made in America’ is the key to more high-quality Kentucky jobs. Trade is a way to export more of the things Kentucky workers make and the products Kentucky farmers produce.

That’s why I strongly support the bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill before Congress. This bill could help lead to the completion and eventual enactment of trade agreements aimed at lowering trade barriers to countries such as Japan, Malaysia, Peru, and the European Union.

More than half a million jobs in Kentucky are related to international trade already, and expanding America’s trade agreements provides opportunities for more growth and jobs. TPA would also expand Congress’ oversight over the Obama Administration and sets clear rules and standards for its trade negotiators.

Lowered trade barriers help industries such as automotive manufacturing and agriculture. Today, Toyota exports Camrys made in its Georgetown, Kentucky manufacturing plant to South Korea following enactment of a free trade agreement America signed with South Korea in 2011. That South Korea is importing Toyotas from Kentucky, not from Japan, means a lot to the 7,000 workers at the Georgetown plant.

Across the Asia-Pacific region our allies confront a growing Chinese economy and military. Passing strong trade agreements is part of ensuring that America remains a dominant player in the dynamic Pacific region, as a counter to Chinese influence. If we don’t step in, China will, and I, for one, would rather see American workers and American farmers reap the economic benefits of selling more to this region than China.

Passing TPA and enacting strong trade agreements will mean greater access to more markets and increased export opportunities for Kentucky-made goods. It would eliminate unfair rules in other countries that discriminate against American workers and American products. And it’s especially good for Kentucky’s small businesses. I met with one constituent of mine, Chase Robbins from Shelbyville, who owns a small auto parts company. Here’s what he said to me:

“As our business has grown internationally, we’ve been confronted with barriers that compromise global markets. It was not long after sending our first shipment overseas that we realized the trade rules were outdated for our business. Most of the agreements and rules were written before small businesses like ours were able to fully utilize the internet to exploit the global market. Trade agreements offer the best chance to lower barriers and increase market access for small companies like mine.”

He continued: “We see a bright future for…companies like ours in the export market but we need new trade deals to get there…Trade Promotion Authority is the first step towards modernizing trade agreements and I encourage Congress to pass TPA as soon as possible.”

Other Kentucky business owners agree. Scott L. Shinn of Sustainment Solutions Inc. (SSI) in Lancaster said this: “The passing of the new free trade agreements is an important component to SSI minimizing costs that are associated with logistics of travel and logistics of moving equipment. With lowered costs, SSI can focus on upholding our reputation for good services, attain more projects, and ultimately hire more Kentucky veterans that support our local economy.”

They’re right. The benefits from trade are great. Studies indicate that Kentucky could gain $2.7 billion in new global investment and more than 18,000 jobs while reaping the rewards of selling more Kentucky goods in Europe and the Pacific. Free trade will benefit Kentucky manufacturers, farmers, and consumers—and most importantly, bring high-quality jobs to our state. And it will help increase prosperity across the Commonwealth. Kentucky is counting on this important free trade legislation, and I’m working hard in the Senate to see it gets passed into law.

Sen. McConnell serves as majority leader of the U.S. Senate.

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