U.S. government inaction on trade is costing America jobs and losing U.S. producers’ market share — and it is vital that the United States re-engage.

That was the message from former U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab to the U.S. Grains Council leadership, gathered in San Francisco for its 51st Annual Board of Delegates Meeting.

Noting the U.S. has not signed a single free trade pact in over three years — while the rest of the world is forging ahead with bilateral and regional deals — Schwab urged President Obama to submit the long stalled Panama, Colombia and South Korea free trade agreements to Congress for ratification.

Schwab also emphasized the importance of moving forward with the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership. More than 200 trade agreements have been adopted by other nations since the United States last signed a deal more than three years ago, and is increasingly being left behind.

Schwab recalled that her earliest experience as a U.S. trade negotiator, in the 1970s, was in the agricultural sector, when she worked to increase U.S. beef and citrus exports to Japan. 

She learned then — and still emphasizes today, more than 30 years later — that agriculture is an area of significant American competitive advantage in trade.

Increased agricultural trade will be a winner for the nation, she emphasized, provided that government avoids destructive policy errors such as embargoes and export restrictions … and provided that government gets off the sidelines and reengages with our trading partners in trade liberalization agreements.