published Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Trade issue spawns rare bipartisanship in Congress

Lawmakers don't score a lot of political points by promoting international trade -- because trade is not exactly a "hot-button" issue. But that doesn't mean international commerce is unimportant.

To the contrary. U.S. goods exported to other countries create vast numbers of American jobs.

Of local interest, the Times Free Press reported recently that in Tennessee, Hamilton County is second only to Shelby County for the number of businesses that export goods. Almost 200 businesses in Hamilton County export their products, and almost 11,000 jobs in Hamilton County are linked to exports, according to the Business and Economic Research Center at Middle Tennessee State University.

With unemployment high both locally and around the nation, we would all be hurting if it were not for the jobs that are sustained by foreign trade.

So it is a good thing that Republicans and quite a few Democrats in Congress recently got behind free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. The bipartisanship was especially strong in the Senate, where 83 of the 100 senators voted for the deal with South Korea. President Barack Obama rightly signed that and the two other agreements into law -- despite heavy opposition from his Big Labor backers, who prefer protectionist policies.

The trade pacts are expected to create tens of thousands of American jobs and generate billions of dollars in revenue for U.S. businesses. We could obviously use those jobs in the current weak economy.

Amid a virtual sea of bad policies coming from Washington, it is refreshing that lawmakers and the president came together to promote free trade -- and our economy as a whole.

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