Bill shows bipartisanship works

Published 7:03 pm Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Admittedly, it is rather difficult to find many instances where Congress and the president can reach agreement these days.

The House and the Senate are divided, and the president seems disinclined to work with Congress altogether. Given the ideological divisions that separate the political parties in Washington, last week’s passage of major legislation to open markets and boost job creation was proof it is still possible for the president and lawmakers of all stripes to reach a consensus for the good of the country.

These free trade agreements have been a plank in the Republican economic platform since we regained control of the House, and the president has also talked about the need to approve these important agreements.

So why did it take so long for the president to send the free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea to Capitol Hill for a vote?

Each of the three accords was negotiated several years ago, but they were held back from Congress – which must grant its approval. Despite the objections from labor unions, in the end, common sense prevailed at the White House. Congress quickly and overwhelmingly passed the trade bills shortly after they arrived on the Capitol doorstep last week.

As we have all come to realize, our livelihoods are greatly affected by the global economy.

What happens in other regions of the world affects business decisions, investments, prices and jobs here at home.

In recent decades, Alabama has not only embraced foreign trade, but we have welcomed many successful foreign-owned companies into our communities. Southwest Alabama is dotted with many such businesses, which provide good-paying jobs and tax revenues for local cities. And we hope to see more in the future. Efforts to encourage such foreign investment and trade are good business for everyone; and last week’s passage of the three new free trade agreements is a positive development for Alabama and the nation.

While America as a whole has benefitted from international trade, Alabama, in particular has seen a significant increase in exports over the last four years, rising by 161 percent compared to an 85 percent growth nationally.

According to figures from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in 2010 Alabama exported in excess of $15 billion worth of goods, nearly evenly divided among the regions of the Americas, Europe and Asia. More than 35,000 jobs statewide were tied to these exports. Southwest Alabama saw over $1.9 billion in exports last year, supporting nearly 3,800 local jobs.

Before the new free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea were officially approved by Congress last week, Alabama had already seen the benefit of trade with these three nations.