I visited Long Beach, Calif., yesterday to talk about the importance of trade. It’s clear to me that if we are to build an economy that works for future generations, we must help our businesses continue to grow, innovate and out-compete the rest of the world. Continuing to see farm export growth will be a key indication that our nation’s economy is moving in the right direction.
Long Beach is home to nation’s second busiest seaport. Export container traffic along California’s coast is climbing. In fact, California exports of all goods, including food and agriculture, have posted 15 consecutive months of strong growth, and that’s great news for the American economy. Meanwhile, the U.S. farm economy is stronger than ever: U.S. agricultural exports are forecast to shatter records and reach a record trade surplus of $47.5 billion this year. In short, farm export growth means jobs for Americans across a variety of sectors: processing, packaging, transportation and at our seaports.
The Port of Long Beach estimates that it supports 316,000 jobs throughout Southern California. Moreover, the farm commodities passing through ports in San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles and Oakland on their way to Asia and Latin America support paychecks for thousands of other Californians.
To continue to build on this progress, USDA is helping educate businesses of all sizes about how to use trade to continue to grow, innovate and succeed. Thanks to the President’s National Export Initiative, which challenged U.S. businesses to double all exports by the end of 2014, USDA is reaching out to producers and agribusinesses of all sizes with information about how to tackle the export market and financing to make it happen.
In California, I met Tony LoBue who has owned and operated Scott’s Food Products in Paramount, Calif., for more than 30 years. Tony produces an aloe vera beverage which he exports to a handful of countries around the world, including Korea. He told me his Korean clients love the product but complain about the tariff they have to pay to bring it into the country. With ratification of the US-Korea Trade Agreement, the eight percent tariff that is now on every bottle that Tony ships to Korea would be lifted. Tony says this would help him sell more of his product to Korea and grow his business.
Smart trade deals like the U.S.-Korea trade agreement will help exporters like Tony reach new customers. When ratified by Congress, this deal will eliminate tariffs on a variety of American goods, while adding tens of thousands of jobs to our economy. Economic output is estimated to grow more under U.S.-Korea agreement than from the United States’ last nine trade agreements combined.
I have the utmost faith that America’s farmers, ranchers and growers will continue to help feed our nation, add jobs to our economy and reduce our trade deficit as they have for decades. And strong trade will be a key contributor to building an economy that continues to grow, innovate and out-compete the rest of the world.