Home » Opinion — Mitch McConnell: Trade key to Kentucky

Opinion — Mitch McConnell: Trade key to Kentucky

Trade leads to high-quality jobs

(May 18, 2015) — Trade is the key to high-quality Kentucky jobs, and a way to export more of the things Kentucky workers make and more of the products Kentucky farmers and ranchers produce. That’s why I strongly support the bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill before Congress. This bill could help lead to the completion and eventual enactment of trade agreements aimed at lowering trade barriers to 11 countries in partnership and to the European Union.

Mitch McConnell
Mitch McConnell

More than half a million jobs in Kentucky are related to international trade already, and expanding America’s trade agreements provides opportunities for more growth. TPA would also expand Congress’ oversight over the Obama Administration and sets clear rules and standards for its trade negotiators.

Lowered trade barriers help industries such as automotive manufacturing, agriculture, and the makers of distilled spirits. Today, Toyota exports Camrys made in its Georgetown, Ky., manufacturing plant to South Korea following enactment of a free trade agreement America signed with the Koreans in 2011. The fact that South Korea is importing Toyotas from Kentucky and not from Japan means a lot to the 7,000 workers at the Georgetown plant.

Across the Asia-Pacific region our allies confront a growing Chinese economy and military. Passing strong trade agreements is part of ensuring that America remains a dominant player in the dynamic Pacific region, even as China seeks to expand its influence. If we don’t step in, China will, and I, for one, would rather see American workers and American farmers reap the economic benefits of selling more to this region than China.

Passing TPA and enacting strong trade agreements will mean greater access to more markets and increased opportunities for Kentucky-made goods. Studies indicate that Kentucky could gain $2.7 billion in new global investment and more than 18,000 jobs while reaping the rewards of selling more Kentucky goods in Europe and the Pacific.

Passing TPA and enacting these free trade agreements would eliminate unfair rules in other countries that discriminate against American workers and American products. And it’s especially good for Kentucky farmers. Here is what one corn, wheat and soybean farmer from Spencer County wrote to me:

“We need free trade to compete with the grain farms in South America. Dozens of people have jobs as a direct result of our small business: input suppliers, truckers, mechanics and traders, just to name a few. Help me and all these people by expanding trade and consumption globally. Our future depends on it.”

He’s not the only one who thinks so. Says Dave Maples, executive vice president of the Kentucky Beef Cattlemen: “Current and future trade agreements give cattle producers in Kentucky, the largest beef state east of the Mississippi River, the ability to export some of the finest beef our country has to offer, and expand our markets. Greater access to markets means a better future for my operation, children and grandchildren.”

Another constituent, from forklift manufacturer CLARK Material Handling Company in Lexington, said this: “TPA [and trade agreements] are good for CLARK, they are good for Kentucky, and they are good for the overall economic well-being of the entire country.”

They’re right. The benefits from trade are huge. The United States currently has free trade agreements with 20 countries, which account for $12.1 billion—or 44 percent—of Kentucky’s exports. Expanding free trade agreements to countries in Europe and the Pacific will only make our exports grow. It will benefit Kentucky manufacturers, farmers, and consumers—and most importantly, provide high-quality jobs in our state. And it will help increase prosperity across the Commonwealth. Kentucky is counting on this important free trade legislation, and I’m working hard in the Senate to see it gets done.

Mitch McConnell is the Senate majority leader.