As many as 15,000 good-paying jobs will come to Alabama as a result of ratification of three Free Trade Agreements, according to Commissioner John McMillan, who met earlier this week with business leaders at the Innovation Depot in Birmingham.

"International trade means jobs creation, especially for our farmers and agribusinesses in Alabama," said McMillan, commissioner for the Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries.

"Birmingham can directly benefit from open and free trade with the countries involved, South Korea, Panama and Colombia, as products from the region’s manufacturing and agribusiness industries are in demand in those markets."

McMillan noted the third agreement, with South Korea, was significant due to the investment Hyundai Corp. has made in Montgomery.

"U.S. Commerce Department officials estimate 250,000 new American jobs would result from ratification of the Free Trade Agreement with South Korea," McMillan said. "Alabama is well positioned to benefit from expanded trade with South Korea, with whom we have good relationships."

To date, the Obama administration has yet to send the agreements to the U.S. Senate where they must be ratified by a two-thirds vote.

"This should be a major part of the President's jobs creation plan, as trade opportunities don't require government subsidies or new programs to implement," McMillan explained.

Chances are good for ratification of all three agreements, according to Commerce Department officials.

Facts to consider:

Foreign sales generate jobs. Every $1 billion in exports means 15,000 jobs for Alabama citizens, and 15 percent of all Alabama manufacturing sector workers depend on exports for their jobs.

The U.S.-Korean FTA will make Alabama products more affordable to Korean consumers as more than half of Alabama exports there would be duty-free and tariff elimination for over 95 percent of U.S. exports of consumer and industrial products within five years.

Colombia is Alabama’s 21st largest export market and the ratified trade agreement when reached means that nearly 60 percent of Alabama export products will be duty-free. Exports to Colombia of U.S. goods are expected to increase by over $1.1 billion when the FTA is enacted.

Upon enactment of the trade agreement with Panama, 88 percent of goods exported to their markets will be duty-free. Panama is one of the fastest-growing economies in Central America, set to grow 8.5 percent this year and for the next four years.

We must avail ourselves of our proximity to these, and other emerging Latin American markets which represent the fastest-growing export zone. We export three times as much to Latin America as to China.

Alabama faces a unique opportunity to transform its economy by becoming a leader in exports of agricultural and consumer products, logistics, service and export-oriented manufacturing activities.