Don’t bash free trade without reading this

Wayne Cooper
Wayne Cooper

With Election Day three weeks away, both presidential candidates are working hard to show Americans what they stand for and earn their vote. The economy and trade are at the forefront of the conversation. As a business owner and chairman of the North Carolina District Export Council, I want to highlight just how important international trade and investment are to our state’s economy.

International trade, including exports and imports, supports about 1.2 million North Carolina jobs. From local farms to small businesses to the headquarters of our most globally engaged firms, trade touches numerous aspects of our state’s livelihood.

More than 214 countries consume North Carolina grown or manufactured goods and services. In fact, Mexico, Canada and China – the state’s top markets – alone spend billions of dollars on North Carolina products annually.

Free trade agreements (FTAs) have been a major contributor to rapid export growth – especially trade to neighboring countries like Mexico. Today, Mexicans consume an increasing amount of U.S. goods and services, resulting in job creation and business success.

U.S. Census data report nearly 184,000 North Carolina jobs rely on trade with Mexico. In addition, many Mexican-made products – upwards of 40 percent – contain materials made in America.

As Mexico continues to develop, the demand for U.S. goods will keep growing. Trade agreement partner countries purchased 12.2 times more goods per capita from North Carolina than other countries did in 2013.

Trade agreements also reduce the cost of products by eliminating trade barriers. Free trade allows a manufacturer to buy raw material at a lower price, and reduce their cost to export goods, which results in selling more products and being able to employ more people. One in five people’s jobs in North Carolina depends on two-way trade.

Foreign-owned companies invest significant capital to open and expand N.C. facilities each year. One example is DAK Americas. Headquartered in Charlotte, DAK is a fast-growing Mexican-owned petrochemicals and synthetic fibers manufacturer. Formed in 2001, DAK has expanded rapidly, investing millions of dollars to buy or build facilities across the Americas, including several in the Carolinas where the majority of the company’s 1,100 U.S. employees work.

I learned a long time ago that free trade boils down to providing consumers products at the lowest possible price. If a family can buy housing, clothing and food at a lower price, they automatically have more money in their pocket and a better standard of living.