Guest blog post by Stefan M. Selig, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade
When we look back at 2014, it will be seen as the year our country regained its economic confidence, symbolized by the nearly 3 million jobs our economy created in 2014.
While this feat extended the longest streak of job growth in American history, we should not overlook the role our exports and our exporters played in regaining that economic confidence.
U.S. exports of goods and services tallied a record $2.35 trillion in 2014. That was the fifth consecutive year we achieved record exports. This is a clear validation of the Administration’s commitment to a robust trade and investment agenda.
In fact, there are three ways that our exports played an important role in the breakthrough year our economy produced.
First, at the same time that we were experiencing the longest streak of job growth, we also experienced a record year when it came to export-supported jobs: more than 11.7 million. This number includes the 2.8 million jobs supported by the exports to our North American Free Trade Agreement partners Canada and Mexico. And we know those export supported jobs pay 13 to 18% higher wages than non-export supported jobs.
Second, U.S. exporters reaped the benefits of a record year of exports with our 20 free trade partners – with a total of $765 billion in goods sent to these markets. That record included increases in exports to Colombia (up 10.5%), South Korea (up 6.8%) and the Central America Free Trade Agreement-Dominican Republic partners (up 5.7%). Overall, these 20 countries purchase nearly half of all U.S. exports today – 47% to be exact.
Third, a major driver of our export growth came from our Latin American free trade partners, such as Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, and Peru. Exports to these 11 countries alone represented more than a third of our entire year-over-year increase in exports. The region is a major destination for U.S. petroleum and coal, computers and electronics, chemicals, and transportation equipment.
So 2014 was clearly a breakthrough year for our exports and for our economy in general. Now, we need the tools that will allow us to carry that momentum into 2015 and beyond.
That is why passing trade promotion legislation is even more crucial, particularly as we work to finalize the historic Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP).
TPP will give U.S. exporters better access to the Asia-Pacific, which will carry the majority of global middle class by 2030. TPP means taking the very success we have seen in Latin America – U.S. goods exports to Look South markets increased 5.4 percent in 2014 from the previous year, more than double the increase of goods exports to the rest of the world -- and replicating it in the Asia-Pacific.
To help our negotiators reach the best deal possible, the President needs Congress to pass trade promotion legislation. This would signal to our negotiating partners that a successfully negotiated TPP will not be held up by amendments when it goes to Congress for a final vote. This would give those trading partners the confidence to put their final offers on the table.
And because trade promotion legislation empowers Congress to determine the priorities and objectives our negotiators must pursue, it will ensure TPP embodies the values of 21st century global commerce: environmental protection, workplace regulations, and fair wages.
If we want a future that will include connecting U.S. exporters to 60% of global GDP, accessing the majority of global middle class consumers, supporting more American jobs through expanded exports, and locking 21st century values into the global trading system, then trade promotion legislation will be an essential element.