In my travels this month around the state Nebraskans have shared their worries about our national economy and their belief that the dysfunction in Washington certainly isn't making anything better. They want Washington to stop the games and politics, and come together to work on creating jobs in America.
Politics shouldn't continue stalling job-creation
I agree and there's a ready-made opportunity for Congress and the Administration to work together in September on jobs. Holding votes on three stalled trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama could create jobs and improve our economy. The Administration negotiated the agreements, now it's up to Congress to ratify them or not.
But they've been hung up because of politics that has already cost our country jobs and millions of dollars in lost exports.
Just before the start of the August break, Senate leaders said they'd overcome the main hang-up: They plan to hold a separate vote on whether to expand aid to workers dislocated by trade deals. It shouldn't take months to agree to a vote but that's Washington for you. There could be more politicking ahead, too.
Voting on and passing these trade agreements will give us more access to consumers in these countries eager for U.S. goods. There's no reason to delay the votes any longer. Delay just causes uncertainty that hurts the economy.
Increasing trade isn't flashy, but Nebraskans know that trade is a big part of what keeps our economy so sound. Last year, we exported $5.8 billion of Nebraska products, trade that supports nearly 100,000 jobs in Nebraska.
When I was governor in the 1990s I worked to expand trade and the state more than doubled exports from $868 million in 1990 to more than $2 billion in 1998. I led trade missions that increased sales of Nebraska goods, and, as a consequence, helped create jobs.
Today, agriculture products drive our trade opportunities. More than three-fourths of Nebraska's exports are corn, soybeans, beef and pork.
More than 1,300 Nebraska companies export goods. The most recent data shows that Lincoln exported $683 million in merchandise and Omaha exporting $1.9 billion in merchandise in 2009.
If passed, the U.S.-Korea trade agreement would lower tariffs on U.S. beef exports and since Nebraska is the nation's second largest exporter of live animals and meat, our exports will go up. Corn would be able to enter Korea duty free and since our state is the 4th largest exporter of feed grains nationally, corn exports will go up.
If voted on and approved, the Korea trade agreement also would boost exports of soybeans and because we're the 5th largest exporter of soybeans, that will boost jobs. The trade agreement with Colombia and Panama would have a similar impact by opening access to their markets for Nebraska exports, prompting more job creation.
Clearly, with unemployment nationally over 9 percent and whiplash on Wall Street, focusing on job creation should be a way to bring Washington together. All that's needed is for everyone to stop listening to what their party leaders and special interests tell them to do, and vote their conscience.
There's no better place to start than on holding votes soon in the Senate and House on the U.S. trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama.