Kirk Applauds Passage of Free Trade Agreements as Key for Illinois Economy

WASHINGTON–(ENEWSPF)–October 13, 2011.  After more than three years of delay, the United States Senate today voted to ratify free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) voted in favor of all three agreements, which will expand exports and create jobs in Illinois, and around the country. All three bills passed with broad bipartisan support with the South Korea bill passing 83-15 (House 278-151), the Panama bill 77-22 (House 300-129) and the Colombia bill 66-33 (House 262-167).

“The Illinois economy depends heavily on passage of these trade agreements to open new markets for Illinois products and create thousands agriculture, high tech and manufacturing jobs,” Senator Kirk said. “Most importantly, these trade deals do not increase borrowing or raise taxes. Congress should build on this bipartisan, job-creating vote and reduce the regulatory burdens on small businesses and reform the tax code so U.S. businesses can better compete globally.”

Passage of the free trade agreements have been one of the key policies Sen. Kirk has touted as a bipartisan proposal to create jobs without increase government borrowing and spending. The agreements also are an important component of Sen. Kirk’s regional economic development agendas for Bloomington-Normal, Champaign-Urbana, the Quad Cities, Peoria, Rockford, and Southern Illinois.

Once approved by the President, the free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea will profoundly affect the Illinois economy. The State of Illinois is the sixth largest merchandise exporter out of the 50 states and in 2009, exported $41.6 billion in merchandise to other countries, with $1.2 billion worth of business in Colombia, Panama and South Korea in 2010. Opening up new export markets for Illinois products is expected to create thousands of private sector jobs. Illinois-based Caterpillar, which in 2010 exported $13.4 billion worth of products to other countries, would see tariffs reduced by hundreds of thousands of dollars by enacting the free trade deals. The Panama Canal expansion project alone represents a $300 million opportunity for Caterpillar. The trade deals are particularly important for Navistar, which is the number one brand truck in Panama and Colombia.

The agribusiness sector of Illinois’ economy also reaps a windfall from the pending free trade agreements. The trade deals are expected to create $2.5 billion in new agriculture exports and 22,500 jobs nation-wide. Expanding export markets for Illinois farmers and the increasing demand for agriculture products and equipment manufactured in Illinois will allow businesses like ADM, John Deere and Caterpillar to reinvest in their companies and hire new workers. Illinois farmers and ranchers are expected to see a $90 million increase in direct exports as a result of enactment of the free trade deals.

In addition to passage of the three free trade agreements, Sen. Kirk has consistently advocated for reforming the corporate tax code by eliminating loopholes to lower the top rate from 39% to 29% and reducing the regulatory burden on small businesses. All three policies are key aspects of Sen. Kirk’s 23 Point Plan for Economic Growth.

The free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea have now passed both the House and the Senate and will be sent to the President’s desk for final approval.