For two decades, the word “trade” has been a dividing force in Congress.

Its supporters, like me, see trade as a boon to our economy. As the free leader of the world, the U.S. is also one of the largest trading nations, supporting millions of American workers and millions of American jobs.

Increased trade is good for America. In the past decade, U.S. exports have nearly doubled to $2 trillion a year. More exports from the U.S. can increase production of American-made products, spurring and stabilizing local jobs while supporting small business and increasing consumer choice.

In my home state of Texas, over 20,000 small and medium-size businesses rely on exporting goods and 1 in 5 manufacturing jobs relies on trade.

Along the southern border, Laredo, Texas, the nation’s largest inland trade post and 6th largest trade port, has experienced a stabilizing effect in local unemployment, in large part due to trade. While national unemployment hovers at or near 10%, Laredo’s unemployment has remained steady at 8.6% despite a 30% poverty rate.
Everyday, $1 billion is generated in trade between the United States and Mexico, with 10,000 trucks crossing Laredo’s border every 24 hours. American goods are exported to Mexico as important Mexican goods move into the United States.

Trade like this helps keep our food prices down. America exported more than $100 billion worth of agriculture products in 2009, supporting a $30 billion agriculture trade surplus here at home.

In a time of rising deficits and widespread unemployment, trade continues to generate revenues and jobs for the United States. These are revenues that we’d otherwise have to make up with widespread tax hikes or with jobs we’d struggle to recreate.

This week, President Obama released his annual trade policy agenda and I applaud the President for recognizing that increasing exports has the potential to create 2 million jobs in the next 5 years. However, more can and should be done. That’s why I support implementing three important free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and Korea.

The economic opportunities from passing these FTAs will spark new heat in the nation’s economic engine.

To pass these and other future trade agreements, both sides of the aisle must come together and forge a consensus putting the American economy first.
That’s why I’ve formed a bi-partisan Pro-Trade Caucus in Congress dedicated to building a bi-partisan coalition to advance an international trade policy that keeps America competitive. By leveling the playing field with 21st Century trade deals, we increase American exports abroad and spur job creation here at home.
There’s a growing global market share waiting for the U.S. to grab a hold. And there’s no time, nor good reason, to wait.

(Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) is currently serving his third term in Congress. In 2009, he founded the Pro-Trade Caucus to help advance bipartisan efforts to expand American trade. As a native to Laredo, Texas, Congressman Cuellar has been a long-time advocate for trade and represents the nation’s largest inland trade post. He also serves as the House Homeland Subcommittee Chairman on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism.)

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