President should act on free trade agreements and boost jobs

Jean Schmidt
The fact that the economy is struggling isn’t news to the 529,000 Ohioans searching for work.

What might surprise them, however, is that the means to create some 250,000 jobs nationally are just sitting on President Obama’s desk.

He has yet to act on several free trade agreements, which have been languishing in the Oval Office for three years. Meanwhile, on Aug. 5, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the national unemployment rate for July was 9.1 percent.

Free trade agreements have had a positive effect on our nation’s economy.

All the free trade agreements in force between the United States and its trading partners in 2008 created $304.5 billion in U.S. output and supported approximately 5.4 million American jobs, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Negotiations on the latest agreements – with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea – began in the Bush administration, and all were concluded years ago.

But, President Obama must send them to Congress for its approval. Sadly, he refuses to do so – because of special interest concerns.

These three trade agreements have the potential to boost the U.S. gross domestic product by $10 billion, according to the International Trade Commission.

The president says that could lead to the creation of 250,000 jobs.

Unfortunately, we need to act – and act fast – to maximize these benefits. As President Obama said, “If America sits on the sidelines while other nations sign trade deals, we will lose the opportunity to create jobs on our shores.”

He is right. As Congress waits for the president to send the trade agreements to us for approval, other countries are acting. The European Union entered into a free trade agreement with South Korea, which took effect July 1.

Now is the time to finally act on these languishing free trade agreements. President Obama says he wants to pass them.

I am confident that House Speaker John Boehner will bring them to the floor as soon as he gets them. We can’t let this opportunity to help grow the economy and put more Americans to work slip away.

Jean Schmidt is the U.S. Congresswoman serving Ohio’s Second District.