Now Is Time to Continue, Not Jeopardize Economic Progress

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In year one of the Trump administration, Congress worked with the White House to enact historic tax cuts and roll back burdensome regulations. The results speak for themselves.

More than 4 million Americans have received special bonuses and 90 percent of American workers are seeing bigger paychecks since Congress passed tax cuts last December. Filings for unemployment benefits recently fell to the lowest level in almost five decades.

Today our economy is on its strongest growth path in over a decade, and the benefits to workers in Indiana and across our country are only beginning. We must continue this progress.

Recent calls by the administration to enter a trade war and raise tariffs put this growth at risk. Trade benefits almost every sector of the U.S. economy, while history shows us that tariffs ultimately punish American workers and businesses.

Consider Indiana’s agriculture industry.

Agriculture has been and always will be one of Indiana’s most important economic industries. According to the latest Census of Agriculture, the Hoosier state is home to more than 58,000 farms producing $11 billion worth of output every year. This includes $7 billion worth of grains, $4 billion worth of corn and $3 billion worth of wheat. In Indiana’s Third District, which includes northeast Indiana, 11,801 farms add nearly $2 billion to the economy every year.

The ability to export to foreign markets is a critical part of this success. According to State Export Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Indiana ranked 7th in the United States with more than $4.6 billion in agricultural exports. The Indiana Business Research Center estimates that agricultural exports support 34,800 Hoosier jobs.

Hoosier farmers depend on free-trade agreements that are vital to their business. Rather than enter a damaging trade war, Congress and the Trump administration should work together on ways to modernize existing trade agreements.

For instance, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) deal was signed before e-commerce developed into the economic driver that it is today. In the spirit of promoting more free and open trade, the Trump administration should push our trading partners to raise the level of duty-free imports for e-commerce to the same level as the United States. I also support strengthening IP protections and rules to improve the free flow of data between countries, in addition to removing any remaining trade barriers on America’s agriculture output.

Overall, trade agreements like NAFTA should be amended but preserved. Forty-two percent of Indiana’s food and agriculture exports go to our NAFTA trading partners. This adds more than $570 million to Indiana’s economy – withdrawing from the agreement could cost our state more than 70,000 Hoosier jobs.

A stronger and more secure America includes strengthening vital trade agreements that help Hoosier workers. With our economy taking off, now is the time to continue, not jeopardize, the economic progress of the last several months.

Jim Banks is a U.S. congressman representing Indiana's third district.

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