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Free trade means good jobs for Illinois

Sen. Mark Kirk's argues that the U.S. must back a new free trade agreement with Pacific Rim countries to be able to compete with companies such as this clothing manufacturer in Huaibei, China.

The economy has never been more globally competitive and intertwined than it is today. Two-hundred countries compete for more than $78 trillion in world gross domestic product. Some countries take an isolationist, protectionist position, sticking their heads in the sand and pretending the world is flat. Others build economic engines able to compete with global powerhouses like China, Japan, India and Europe. American has chosen to compete.

OPINION

American workers are the best in the world, and make the best products. Illinois inventors are credited with creating the cellphone, dishwasher, vacuum cleaner, and the zipper. Our manufacturers make the best airplanes, tractors, combines, mining equipment, engineered fasteners, components and other industrial goods that each of us can proudly call American Made. Illinois is an export state and proudly sells products north and south of the equator, and in the Eastern and Western hemispheres.

When exported, these products support more than 11 million U.S. jobs. Trade alone supports nearly 2 million jobs in Illinois. For Illinois manufactures to remain competitive with the rest of the world, Congress needs to approve free trade with the Pacific Rim countries and maintain loans through the Export-Import Bank.

To unilaterally disarm American manufacturing is to turn our back on the American workers, products and our own economy. Our products and workers will quickly be replaced. I don’t know anyone who flies on a Boeing 737 who wishes they were on a Chinese Comac C919.

The free trade agreement with the Pacific Rim countries — Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — means Australia, Chile, Japan, New Zealand and Singapore will expand market access for Illinois companies like Caterpillar, John Deere and Motorola. The TPP opens the door for the Land of Lincoln to better access 40 percent of global GDP.

The Export-Import Bank — or ExIm – makes loans so American companies may better compete abroad when private financing is unavailable. The domestic impact of ExIm is undeniable, as nearly 200,000 U.S. workers are supported as a result of ExIm financing, including 46,000 in the state of Illinois. This benefit comes with no expense to taxpayers. Over the past three years alone, the return on investment in American companies has made over $2.5 billion for the U.S. Treasury.

ExIm competes with roughly 60 other export credit agencies (ECAs) around the globe. Without ExIm, over $1 trillion in trade assistance from foreign export credit agencies will rig the global economy against American companies.

Both free trade and the ExIm Bank advance domestic exports, support the American worker and strengthen America’s standing in the global economy.

It’s pretty simple. Global demand will not change, so it’s just a matter of who will provide the supply. If we don’t ship American goods overseas, we will instead ship American jobs. Let’s give our manufacturers a helping hand and support free trade and the ExIm Bank.

Mark Kirk, a Republican, is the junior senator from Illinois.