But that doesn't mean there aren't concrete steps that policymakers can take right now to improve the situation and kick-start a stalled recovery. Consider the three free-trade agreements that have been sitting around for the last several years. There’s no reason for them to remain idle when they could be doing good work for a lot of people.
Start with the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, it would increase U.S. exports by an estimated $10 billion annually. Think it would help our economy to be shipping an additional $10 billion in goods every year? Of course it would. This increase in trade would create thousands of new U.S. jobs. Look at how anemic the monthly jobs reports have been in recent months -- that would be a godsend.
The benefit of the Korea-U.S. FTA goes beyond dollars and sense, by the way. A glance at its résumé also indicates that it would help a key U.S. ally in the region better withstand pressure from China, and enable Seoul to rely less on Beijing.
As Heritage trade experts Bruce Klingner and James Roberts write in a recent paper, “Seoul has become increasingly concerned about China’s belligerent and arrogant behavior and willingness to use its growing military and economic power to pressure smaller Asian nations.” The Korea-U.S. FTA can serve as an important counterbalance in a dangerous region -- if, that is, U.S. policymakers finally approve it and let it get to work.
FTA No. 2 is with a nation closer to home: Colombia. Talk about waiting a long time to start work: This pact was originally signed in November 2006. And this agreement, too, would bring economic and security benefits to both nations. This expansion of trade would create economic opportunities and help stabilize Latin countries plagued by drug violence and grinding poverty.
Colombia doesn’t just trade with the United States, of course, and it has pursued agreements with other nations, including China and the European Union. “From Argentina and Canada come agricultural products that enter Colombia with duties lower than those placed on U.S. products, duties that would end with the passage of the FTA,” notes Latin America expert Ray Walser. The U.S. is estimated to have lost some $1 billion in agricultural sales, and all because the U.S.-Colombia FTA remains unpassed.