Job growth and a strengthened economy would result from expanding Ohio’s position in international trade, according to the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF).
“The world wants to buy what we’re good at making and growing. That’s a strength we need to capitalize on,” said John C. (Jack) Fisher, OFBF’s executive vice president.
Ohio Farm Bureau is calling on the Obama administration and U.S. Congress to enact pending Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with Columbia, Panama and South Korea. FTAs improve market access and reduce tariffs. The American Farm Bureau Federation estimates that at the end of this year there will be more than 600 bilateral or regional FTAs in place around the world with the United States being party to fewer than 25.
“Our competitors are making deals. We’re sitting on the sidelines,” Fisher said.
Workers, voters and policymakers need to embrace the importance of the export industry, Fisher said. “The statistics paint a very clear picture of just how significant this piece of our economy is,” he added.
Nearly 26 percent of Ohio’s manufacturing jobs are dependent on exports, according to the Office of the United States Trade Representative. 12,384 Ohio companies sell products abroad, with 88 percent of these firms being small-or medium-sized businesses.
The Ohio Department of Development reported that last year, Ohio exported nearly $34.1 billion in products, ranking Ohio as the seventh largest exporting state. Ohio is the largest exporter of glass and glassware, the second largest exporter of automotive and rubber goods, the third largest exporter of iron and steel products, the fourth largest exporter of plastics and the fifth largest exporter of machinery. Ohio firms also ship large amounts of chemicals, computers, paper, furniture, textiles and appliances.
The food chain also accounts for a large share of Ohio’s exported output and demonstrates the potential for growth. Ohio farm product shipments totaled $2.68 billion last year, a 69 percent increase over the level of five years ago, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. With the United Nations forecasting that world food demand will double within 40 years, farmers and 1 million other Ohioans who work in farm- and food-related jobs have a great deal to gain from expanded world trade.
“Ninety-five percent of our potential customers live outside our borders. Exporting to them accounts for a lot of paychecks and a lot of tax revenue. The public conversation needs to recognize this reality.” Fisher said.