The US Chamber of Commerce is putting pressure on the Obama administration to ratify three pending free trade deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.

“When it comes to trade agreements, America is being locked out and left behind,” Tom Donohue, president of the US Chamber of Commerce, said in a speech in Washington on Friday (14 May).

“If we don't act, not only will we miss out on opportunities to create new jobs, we will lose existing jobs as well.”

Donohue’s comments came as he released a new study called ‘Opening Markets, Creating Jobs,’ which found that nearly 18m US jobs depend on trade with America's free trade agreement (FTA) partners.

Crucially, 5.4m of these jobs were created by the increase in trade unleashed by the agreements, the report found.

He also pointed out that trade deals are a key component of the administration's goal of doubling American exports over the next five years.

According to the World Trade Organization, there are 262 free trade agreements in force around the globe today, but the United States has FTAs with just 17 countries.

America is party to only one of more than 100 negotiations of bilateral and regional trade agreements.

“The report the Chamber released today is one more document supporting the case for international trade,” said American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) president and CEO Kevin M Burke. 

“It makes the important point that jobs and trade are forever linked in the global economy.
He added: “Earning new customers abroad is one of [the US apparel and footwear] industry’s top priorities.

“Passing the pending free trade agreements, as well as negotiating new market openings, will keep our industry competitive and relevant.”

The trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama were signed by President George W Bush but have yet to be sent to Congress for ratification.