Durbin Statement on South Korea, Panama and Columbia Free Trade Agreements

WASHINGTON, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–October 12, 2011.  U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) released the following statement tonight after he voted in favor of the free trade agreements with South Korea and Panama and against the free trade agreement with Colombia: 

“Exports can strengthen our manufacturing and agriculture sectors and create good paying jobs across Illinois.  In order to help our economy grow, we need to be able to access new markets and eliminate trade barriers for U.S. exporters.” 

“We must ensure that we engage not just in free trade, but fair trade — trade that upholds our values on labor, human rights, and environmental protections, fair treatment of U.S. products, and supports transparent markets.  Passing these free trade agreements with South Korea and Panama, and the passage of the Trade Adjustment Assistance bill last month, are the right thing to do for Illinois workers and for the American economy. 

Illinois exported over $50 billion worth of goods last year – a 20% increase over 2009. Of the 16,902 Illinois companies that exported goods in 2010, 15,170 were small and medium businesses with fewer than 500 employees. Nearly 540,000 jobs in Illinois are supported by exports – including a quarter of all manufacturing jobs in the state.

South Korea

South Korea is one of Illinois’ largest export markets – totaling $788 million last year. Illinois’ top exports to South Korea are corn, medical appliances, brewing and spirits, electronic circuits and chemical products. Under the new agreement, tariffs on US products would be phased out over next 3-5 years. This agreement has the support of both the major auto producers and the United Auto Workers.


Illinois exports to Panama average $105 million a year. 43% of our exports are machinery – a number that is expected to increase with the expansion of the Panama Canal. That project is expected to cost $5.2 billion.


“Colombia is an American ally in an often turbulent region. Colombia has made progress protecting human rights, but much more needs to be done. I support trade with Colombia and hope a free trade  agreement is in our future, but I cannot ignore the fact that my vote for this Colombia free trade agreement would indicate that enough has been done to stem human rights abuses in Colombia.  It hasn’t.”

Durbin is the Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights. Last year, he chaired a hearing on the human rights situation in Colombia. 

Source: durbin.senate.gov