Partnerships to Grow Arkansas’s Economy

Ninety-five percent of the world’s consumers live outside of the United States. As family farmers and entrepreneurs are looking to grow our stagnant economy, international markets can play a prominent role in growing Arkansas businesses to ultimately hire new workers and get our economy moving.

Last year new Free Trade Agreements with Panama and Colombia were ratified by Congress. When combined, these trade agreements have the potential to open up billions of dollars in new export opportunity for American companies. The Small Business Administration estimates less than one percent of America’s 30 million companies export – a percentage that is significantly lower than all other developed countries. Of U.S. companies that do export, 58 percent export to only one country. Now is the time for Arkansas businesses to seize the opportunity and substantially grow our state’s companies by providing goods to hungry new markets overseas.

In an effort to promote trade opportunities and grow Arkansas’s economy, last week I joined Senator Pryor and Senator Boozman on trade mission to Panama and Columbia. The Free Trade Agreements passed by Congress last year will eliminate Panamanian and Columbian tariffs on U.S. goods and foster new trade opportunities with the two Central American nations. I can see the day when families in Panama and Columbia are eating rice grown in Arkansas’s first district and using Arkansas cotton for textiles.

In Panama our delegation felt right at home. Panama’s president, Ricardo Martinelli is a Razorback. President Martinelli earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration at the University of Arkansas in the 1970s. In his office President Martinelli has a Razorback football helmet displayed and a picture of UofA’s Old Main building. Although I am a proud Red Wolf fan and an Arkansas State graduate, I was proud to learn President Martinelli went to college right here in Arkansas.

Our economy is beginning to show signs of growth. The Free Trade Agreements ratified late last year have the great potential to bolster Arkansas’s economy. Exporting our goods provides a direct flow of capital back into our rural communities and is a critical source of income to revitalize small-town economies. The Free Trade Agreements with Columbia and Panama will be vital to for renewing our economy and creating American jobs – particularly in rural areas. Our trade mission to Panama and Columbia was an important step towards helping our local businesses grow into new markets overseas.

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