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Schwab Tours US Port, Flags Up Importance Of FTAs

by Glen Shapiro,, New York

09 October 2007

US Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and US Trade Representative Susan C. Schwab on Friday met with Baltimore port leaders and business leaders to tout the importance of exports and jobs to the United States as they toured the Port of Baltimore.

“One of the best places to see trade at work is here at the Port of Baltimore,” observed Gutierrez. “Over 128,000 jobs are linked to the port—$2.4 billion in wages and salaries generated. It’s an engine that drives growth in Baltimore, Maryland and America.”

“Over 40 million tons of bulk and container cargo and some 2,300 vessels move through this vital port each year,” added Ambassador Schwab. “This translates into jobs and economic development for the people of this region and beyond. As the US Trade Representative - and as a Marylander – I am excited by this immense volume of trade and what it means for our economy.”

Gutierrez went on to note that while countries that the United States has free trade agreements with make up only 7.5% of the world GDP, they purchase more than 42% of US exports.

The US Trade Representative stressed the importance of moving forward on market-opening, pro-growth trade policies, observing that:

“Ninety five percent of the world’s consumers live outside the US borders. The basis of our trade policy is to break down trade barriers so our exporters can reach those consumers. And the best way we can do that is by concluding and implementing free trade agreements such as those pending in Congress with Peru, Colombia, Panama, and Korea.”

“Our exports to our current Free Trade Agreement partners are growing roughly 60 percent faster than to other countries. We should continue to do what has worked so well and stoke the fuel of economic growth.”

“Opening markets is a central piece of President Bush’s pro-growth agenda. Total US exports last year were up 12.7 percent to $1.4 trillion, an all-time record. Our second quarter GDP was 3.8 percent and the single biggest contributor to economic growth was exports,” added Gutierrez.

Schwab acknowledged the concerns about globalization, but emphasized the fact that backing away from efforts to deepen and strengthen international trade relations will only undermine the economy’s solid performance. She noted that the US economy is strong, with manufacturing output at record levels, and unemployment at a low 4.7%.

“As the world becomes a single market, the pace of change is accelerating. This can cause uncertainty for individuals and communities and dislocations for others. We must assist workers adversely affected but in ways that do not harm the majority of people who benefit from expanded trade. The response to change is not to turn inward. The vitality of the Port of Baltimore is symbolic of the benefits of engaging in trade with countries from around the world. Our economic health and competitiveness depends on our ability to increase free and fair trade,” she concluded.

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