With all the talk of jobs and stimulus bills coming out of Washington D.C., I have remained surprised an important part of our economy seems to have reached a frustrating stalemate.
International sales are a boon to our economy. As the leader of the free world, the U.S. also is one of the largest trading nations, supporting millions of American jobs.
Increased trade is an absolute necessity if America wants to improve our economic situation. In the past decade, U.S. exports have nearly doubled to $2 trillion a year. More exports from the United States can increase production of American-made products, spurring and stabilizing local jobs while supporting small business and increasing customer choice.
Agricultural products are America's number one export, and about 17 percent of raw U.S. agriculture products are exported yearly, valued at $43.5 billion. Ag exports support one-third of all jobs on the farm as well as two-thirds of off-the-farm supporting industries.
For every dollar of goods we export, another $1.48 is created in activities such as processing, finance, shipping, and packaging. With 95 percent of the world's consumers living outside the United States, the benefits of increased trade are obvious.
I applaud President Obama for recognizing the value of exports and for his commitment to strengthening trade with Colombia, South Korea, and Panama.
Unfortunately, approval of these three pending trade agreements has languished awaiting approval by Congress. Enactment of these and other agreements will increase exports. Every day we delay the more ground our nation and our economy lose to our international competitors.
With each passing day, U.S. farmers and ranchers lose more of their share of agricultural exports into Colombia to other South American nations which have duty-free access -- making their products cheaper than ours. More than 90 percent of Colombia's exports to the United States already enter this country duty-free, while U.S. exports to Colombia face tariffs as high as 35 percent. Additionally, 99 percent of Colombia's agricultural products enter the U.S. duty-free compared to zero percent of U.S. agricultural exports to Colombia.
Canada is currently negotiating a bilateral agreement with Colombia, giving its companies greater access to Colombian markets. When an agreement between the European Union and South Korea goes into effect later this year, our companies also will lose significant opportunities.
The reduction of South Korean tariffs would add $10 billion to annual exports of merchandise. The South Korean agreement would immediately eliminate or phase out tariffs and other trade restrictions on a number of agricultural products. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. agricultural exports to South Korea -- including corn, soybeans, wheat, and cotton -- would become duty-free upon enactment.
A report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce concluded our failures to act on the South Korean and Colombia trade agreements are estimated to have cost the United States 585,800 jobs.
The agreement with Panama also would yield great benefits for our nation's economy. More than 60 percent of U.S. agricultural exports would become duty-free upon enactment while at the same time resolving several regulatory and trade barriers to Panama's service sector.
At a time of rising deficits and widespread unemployment, trade continues to generate revenues and jobs for the United States. Increasing our nation's trade opportunities will not only create jobs, it will also help businesses grow at home and enhance relationships abroad.