Foreign Trade Adds 450,000 Jobs in Ohio, Pa.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Trade with other countries has created more than one million jobs since 2009 and supported a record 11.7 million jobs last year, including more than 450,000 in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Obama Administration officials relied on those statistics from a report released Thursday to make their case for trade promotion authority for President Obama.

According to the United States Trade Report, jointly issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the office of the U.S. Trade Representative, jobs supported by trade last year included 263,356 in Ohio and 191,779 in Pennsylvania.

“From coast to coast, exports have played a critical role in growing our economy,” said U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker during a conference call with reporters Thursday.

“We know that more than 304,000 U.S. companies are exporters and that nearly 98% of those are small or medium-sized businesses with fewer than 500 employees,” she added.

Exports, by supporting some 6.2 million manufacturing jobs, play a critical role in the manufacturing resurgence underway in the United States.

“These numbers make it clear that today’s global economy, American prosperity and job creation are directly tied to our ability to reach new markets and new customers beyond our borders,” she remarked.

The report, which provides export data for each of the 50 states as well as one of the companies in each state that exports, is a “powerful reminder” of the opportunity available to American companies, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said.

“What matters are not just the number of jobs but the kind of jobs that Americans want – jobs with solid paychecks and a sense of purpose, jobs with a future. Those are exactly the type of job that trade supports,” he emphasized.

Export-related jobs on average pay up to 18% more than jobs unrelated to exports, he reported. In addition, businesses that export tend to hire more, their employees tend to be more productive and they invest more in innovation and research. Jobs related to exports also tend to be more secure.

While more businesses are exporting than ever before, most small and medium-sized companies don’t export at all, and even those that do export to only one country, according to the trade representative. “That means that the vast majority of our businesses are missing out on the 95% of the world’s customers that live outside of the United States, and we see that as a huge opportunity,” he said.

Magellan Aviation Group in Charlotte, N.C., has seen its employee headcount increase by more than 200% over the past four or five years, reported Rob Fessler, vice president of global marketing for the company. One of two business executives joining the administration officials on the call, he attributed most of that growth in employment to his company’s growth in exports, which account for 63% of Magellan’s revenues.

Already serving more than 75 customers in 85 countries, including in China and nations in South America, Magellan – which provides products and services to the aviation industry — sees “lots of opportunities” in the Asia-Pacific region, Fessler said.

“We see an emerging middle class, which is expected to continue to explode in the next decade,” he remarked. “This translates to more travel, which means more demand for planes, which means more business and more jobs for us here.”

Although exports account for only 10% or so of its business, garage door manufacturer Northwest Door Inc. of Puyallup, Wash., benefits in “a number of ways,” said its president, Jeff Hohman. Exports help provide protection from swings in the domestic market and also help the company to innovate, he said.

“Facing tariffs can and has blocked our progress,” he added. In Thailand, the company faces a 30% tariff, “a steep barrier,” he acknowledged, as opposed to a 10% tariff for an import into the market from China.

Despite the progress made, companies face barriers in trading with other countries such as tariffs, so new trade agreements are needed “to level the playing field,” Pritzker said.

“President Obama understands promoting new trade policies such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership will benefit our businesses and our middle-class workers across the country,” she said.

But achieving new trade treaties requires Congress “to act quickly and pass trade promotion legislation,” she continued. For the last 40 years, trade-promotion authority has permitted Democratic and Republican presidents to pursue new agreements that support American jobs, eliminate barriers and level the playing field for U.S. companies, farmers, ranchers and workers.

“High-standard trade deals” such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership can support more jobs, boost wages and help project American workers from unfair global competition, Froman argued.

TPP, which would cover 40% of the global economy, would require trade partners to abide by rules that require they pay fair wages, maintain safe workplaces and abide by environmental standards if they want to sell into the U.S. market, he posited.

Even as the administration officials and company executives pleaded their case on the conference call, a vocal opponent of past trade deals and a normally reliable administration ally, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, was distributing an email restating his opposition to giving the president fast-track authority.

“American workers don’t have a seat at the TPP’s negotiating table. It’s up to us to make sure working families have a voice and a chance to defend themselves against a raw deal,” Brown said.

The senior senator from Ohio joined U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio, March 28 in Lordstown for a rally with organized labor opposing expanded trade negotiating authority for the president (READ STORY).

Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, who is seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, next year, also issued an email Thursday voicing his opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Over the past 20 years, the North American Free Trade Agreement “has devastated Ohio’s economy and cost hundreds of thousands of jobs,” Strickland asserted.

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership will only do more harm,” he continued. “Negotiating these critical trade policies is not how you rebuild America’s middle class. This will not help America’s workers. And this undermines our efforts to defend the American dream.”

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.