Recently, I’ve been traveling across the country to meet with local business leaders, workers and farmers to talk about how trade can support well-paying jobs right here at home. Yesterday I travelled to the Bangor State Fair in Maine. In its 161st year, this traditional Maine summer event was a perfect place to showcase the importance of agricultural exports to the economic recovery.
I had the opportunity to join Bangor State Fair Director Mike Dyer and USDA Rural Development State Director for Maine Virginia Manuel. With the help of Penobscott County 4-H students, I was able to see first-hand a wide selection of the great American farm products that are sold around the world. I met high school student Matt Davis and his best in show winning dairy cow. I also saw goats and chickens. College students Majorie Hardy and Haley Emery gave me a tour of the 4-H students' project area where I was able to talk with students about the importance of growing locally and selling globally.
These products help to demonstrate why exports are an important and consistent part of the President’s economic recovery plan. In fact, U.S. exports contributed over one percentage point to GDP growth (at an annual rate) in each of the last four quarters of recovery and have contributed over 1.5 percentage points to growth in the last year. This was a larger contribution than consumption or fixed investment. And U.S. agricultural exports have continued to expand, more than doubling from about $50 billion in fiscal year 2000 to a projected $105 billion for fiscal year 2010. Last year, America exported $97 billion in agricultural products, supporting a $23 billion agricultural trade surplus.
At USTR, we’re working to find more market opportunities for American agriculture through agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the U.S.-Korea trade agreement – already our fifth largest agricultural export market. In Maine, almost 75 percent of all exports are sent to the Asia-Pacific Region.
We’re also developing new tools to aid enforcement of farmers’ and ranchers’ trade rights. In March, we published the first USTR reports focused specifically on unjustified technical barriers to trade and on non-science based sanitary and phytosanitary standards that unfairly keep our agricultural products out of foreign markets. We are using this information to expand exports of safe, high-quality U.S. agricultural products.
USTR is taking every opportunity to make sure that smart trade policy works for every American. Because when markets are open and American businesses and farmers have a level-playing field to compete on, no one can beat us, and that means we can keep creating good jobs in Maine and all across America.
Ambassador Ron Kirk is the United States Trade Representative