“We’re cutting our own throats here, I think,” Kim Murray, from the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council, recently remarked in reference to the U.S. failure to pass pending free trade agreements (FTAs) with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. These agreements fell to the wayside in the midst of the debt ceiling debates; however, U.S. producers and workers have been feeling the pinch as other countries have already entered into FTAs with these nations.

“While we stand still, the European Union’s trade agreement with Korea entered into force July 1.… We can’t afford to put American jobs in jeopardy any longer,” asserted Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D–MT) during the FTA debates. House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R–MI) pointed out, “Every day that goes by, we lose more export and job opportunities to our European and Canadian counterparts.”

American jobs in jeopardy? Certainly, with trade between South Korea and the EU spiking since July 1, the U.S. now faces the consequences of failing to act in an increasingly competitive market.

In another example, while our FTA with Colombia has stalled for years, U.S. farmers—particularly corn farmers—have suffered the impact of decreased demand for U.S. grain products following the 2009 FTA between Colombia and Argentina. According to Floyd Gaibler of the U.S. Grains Council, “The lack of [trade] agreements diminishes our ability to be competitive and threatens further erosion in our corn exports to Colombia.” Worse, a new trade agreement between Colombia and Canada takes effect this coming Monday, August 15, and will create an even more challenging trade environment for U.S. exporters.

In the words of Representative Tim Huelskamp (R–KS), “Every day that goes by without these trade agreements is a missed opportunity.” The United States must get on the ball. In a time characterized by soaring unemployment and anemic GDP growth, it is time to take the condition of our nation into consideration. We cannot afford to let another economic opportunity go to waste.

Erin Grant currently is a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/internships-young-leaders/the-heritage-foundation-internship-program