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Weekly Trade Spotlight: Trade in North Carolina

This week, United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk is traveling to North Carolina in his first domestic visit since receiving President Barack Obama’s direction to complete the U.S.-Korea trade agreement. The President has asked Ambassador Kirk to initiate new discussions with his Korean counterpart to resolve outstanding issues in a way that levels the playing field for U.S. workers and producers, with the objective of completing that process by November. This Weekly Trade Spotlight focuses on the how trade can help support well-paying jobs in the Tar Heel State.

Since America’s earliest days, North Carolina has persisted as an industrial, financial, agricultural and academic hub. In the late 18th Century, gold was discovered in Charlotte and the city soon became home to a branch of the U.S. Mint; now the city is one of the nation’s most dynamic financial and banking centers. The state’s eastern Piedmont region boasts the Triangle Research Institute—a robust, cross-disciplinary research park which draws upon the intellectual resources of the state’s finest academic institutions to employ talented North Carolinians and bring scientific innovation to the world market.

In 2008, 217,000 jobs were supported by North Carolina’s goods exports. These U.S. jobs supported by exports pay an estimated 13 to 18 percent higher than the national average wage. The U.S.-Korea trade agreement will benefit the North Carolina economy and create even more jobs by improving access for North Carolina goods and services in Korea’s $1 trillion economy, and by establishing fair ground rules in Korea so that North Carolina workers and businesses can compete on a level playing field.

North Carolina’s businesses provide myriad examples of how increasing exports abroad yields job creation and economic growth here in the United States, especially in the manufacturing sector. Indeed, exports accounted for 17.8 percent of its manufacturing output and represented 19 percent of its total manufacturing employment in 2008.

A revolving door manufacturing company in Lilington, NC employs 120 Americans and has been exporting its high design, technically advanced products for four years. One Charlotte metal manufacturer has been exporting its products to Chile for more than 20 years and currently supports 94 jobs here at home. It is small and medium-sized manufacturers like these that are creating jobs in the United States by supplying markets worldwide. With the passage of the U.S.-Korea trade agreement, many manufactured goods produced in North Carolina will enter Korea duty free immediately, making their products more price-competitive in Korea.

North Carolina’s export opportunities in the U.S.-Korea trade agreement are not limited to the manufacturing sector. In North Carolina, farmers exported over $3.1 billion in agricultural products in 2008. These products span the range of agricultural opportunities; North Carolina is the nation’s leading exporter of tobacco, the sixth largest exporter of live animals and meat, and the third largest exporter of poultry. By exporting American agricultural goods abroad, North Carolina farmers are staying competitive and fostering job growth here at home. The implementation of the U.S.-Korea trade agreement will eliminate Korean duties on major North Carolina agricultural products such as soybeans, cotton, and tomatoes, and most pork products will become duty free.

During Ambassador Kirk's travels, he will visit a broiler and sow operation in the Charlotte-area, and will discuss opportunities for export growth in the agricultural sector with local farmers, business leaders, and elected officials.