The U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly with bipartisan support for three separate bills implementing free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association says the legislation that will boost the economy, spur job creation and provide a more level playing field for U.S. manufacturers.
The House vote totals were 262 to 167 for Colombia, 300 to 129 for Panama, 278 to 151 for South Korea. The Senate vote totals were 66 to 33 for Colombia, 77 to 22 for Panama, and 83 to 15 for South Korea.
William R. Carteaux, president and CEO of SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association issued the following statement concerning Congress' approval of these important bills.
"On behalf of SPI members and the U.S. plastics industry, I want to thank Congress for acting to remove obstacles that have prevented plastics industry exports to South Korea, Colombia and Panama. By voting to pass these three trade agreements, Congress has helped to create jobs and provide new market opportunities for SPI members and other plastics industry manufacturers and suppliers. In addition, it is my sincere hope that the cooperative nature shown by the White House and a bipartisan Congress in favorably resolving these trade agreements serves as a catalyst to similar collaborations to stimulate the economy in the near future.
"SPI staff, and our tireless grassroots network of members, worked countless hours and made, literally, hundreds of Capitol Hill visits in support of these agreements because trade expansion is a critical component of America's economic recovery. SPI has long-supported these pro-growth measures because they will create billions of dollars in new exports within a few short years. Furthermore, the U.S. Trade Representative's office has estimated that together these three agreements will generate 250,000 jobs.
"Fundamentally, these agreements are about making trade fair. Their passage creates a more level playing field for the U.S. plastics industry and increases our competitiveness in these three countries. The U.S. market is largely open to imports from around the world, but other countries continue to place steep tariffs on our exports. These agreements eliminate the barriers U.S. exporters face in these three markets.
South Korea is the 10th largest export market for U.S. plastics. Since 2000, plastics exports to South Korea have increased by 44 percent. Colombia is the 16th largest export market for U.S. plastics. Since 2000, plastics exports to Colombia have increased by 163 percent. Although not presently a top market for the U.S. plastics industry, Panama has shown tremendous growth potential as well. Since 2000, plastics exports to Panama have increased by 107 percent.
"I want to stress that these agreements are particularly important for America's small and mid-sized companies. More than 250,000 U.S. companies are exporters, and 97% of them are small and medium-sized businesses. Together, they generate nearly one-third of all U.S. merchandise exports. These agreements are especially important for these smaller businesses, which are often shut out of foreign markets by high tariffs and other barriers."
Founded in 1937, SPI is the plastics industry trade association representing the third largest manufacturing industry in the United States. SPI's member companies represent the entire plastics industry supply chain, including processors, machinery and equipment manufacturers and raw materials suppliers. The U.S. plastics industry employs nearly 1 million workers and provides $327 billion in annual shipments.