U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue offered five ideas to grow the economy and get people back to work.
Now that a debt ceiling and deficit reduction agreement has been reached, the White House and Congress have announced, once again, that they are pivoting back to jobs. Refocusing attention on Americans’ highest priority is welcome as long as it is real. Good intentions and great speeches are nice but they don’t produce paychecks for the more than 16% of our fellow citizens who are unemployed or underemployed. Long-term reforms to boost our nation’s competitiveness and set us on a course of robust economic growth and job creation are essential. (You can find the Chamber’s plan here.) But jobless Americans want to know how and where they can find work now, not later! They deserve some real answers and fast action.
Here are five steps officials in Washington should take immediately to spur faster hiring in America’s private sector. These actions will not increase the deficit. Instead, they will reduce the deficit by expanding the ranks of employed taxpayers, thus thinning the ranks of those who are dependent on government support.
- Ratify Pending Free Trade Agreements With Colombia, Korea, and Panama.
Free trade agreements (FTAs) with these dynamic economies were negotiated years ago; yet, they’ve languished. If they are passed, they will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. If they aren’t, we’ll lose 380,000 jobs to our competitors that have cut their own deals with these countries. Let’s get these agreements done already.
There has been movement in Congress on the Free Trade Agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. In a press release U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee announced that the U.S. Senate had reached agreements on the Pending FTAs. U.S. Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), welcomed the agreement and stated that removal of this obstacle in the Senate may allow Congress to vote on the FTAs as early as September. Rep. Ros-Lehtinen released the following official statement:
“The announcement by Senators Reid and McConnell that they have reached an agreement on moving forward with the long-stalled Colombia, Panama, and South Korea Free Trade Agreements is very good news for the U.S. economy in the creation of thousands of new jobs through increased exports.
“In addition to their economic benefits, these agreements are vitally important to our national security interests in Latin America and East Asia. Colombia, Panama, and South Korea are key allies and passage of these agreements will demonstrate our ongoing commitment to their security, prosperity, and stability.
“Congress may finally be able to vote on these much-needed Free Trade Agreements as early as September, if the Obama Administration honors its commitment to move forward as quickly as possible.”
According to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the original U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement was concluded by the Bush Administration in 2006 and the Trade Agreements with Panama and South Korea in 2007. The Obama Administration insisted on renegotiating each, citing a need to revise provisions regarding labor and other issues. Despite this, the Administration has repeatedly refused to forward the renegotiated texts to Congress for a vote. The Reid-McConnell agreement concerns Senate consideration of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program, a prerequisite of the Obama administration for sending the FTAs to Congress, which provides assistance to workers adversely affected by trade agreements.