Each year, Oklahoma’s economy is positively impacted by the production and shipment of heating, cooling, and refrigeration equipment, rubber, pipes, steel and iron tubes, fertilizer, plastics, and so much more that originate inside our state.
In 2016, Oklahoma exported $1.4 billion in goods to Canada and $537 million to Mexico, our two largest export markets. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is responsible for nearly 40 percent of Oklahoma’s total exports and over 100,000 Oklahoma jobs rely on our trade with those two countries.
Last month, I had the privilege of meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House to discuss the future of our nation’s trade agreements.
His desire to bring back middle class America by reviving ‘Made in America’ products speaks directly to Oklahoma’s highly-skilled manufacturing workforce. But as I shared with the president, trade and infrastructure go hand-in-hand. Especially in Oklahoma, we cannot have one without the other.
It’s clear that trade with our North American neighbors is critical to Oklahoma’s economy and job market. The trouble is: how do we continue to transport goods that add to our economy with a crumbling infrastructure?
For example, since the Tulsa Port of Catoosa opened in 1971, it has shipped more than 82 million tons of freight. The popular port sees about 1,000 barges a year and employs over 6,000 people.
However, the port’s navigational system, the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS), is in desperate need of infrastructure repairs. MKARNS has a 50 percent chance of failing in the next five years.
The United States Army Corps of Engineers estimates it would cost $142 million to make only the most critical repairs to the navigation system.
Trade is an important part of Oklahoma’s economy, but before we can grow our trade relationships with neighboring countries, we have to put durable infrastructure in place—not just in Oklahoma, but nationwide.
According to a 2015 study, if MKARNS were to fail, the entire country’s business sales would decrease by an estimated $4.1 billion annually.
As I conveyed to the president, the future of our nation’s trade depends on the reliability of our infrastructure. I’ll continue to vocalize the importance of an infrastructure bill in Congress and to the president.
After all, our country is dependent upon these ports, navigational systems, roads, bridges, and highways to deliver our products that boast the ‘Made in America’ distinction.
Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) represents the second district in the U.S. House of Representatives. He can be reached through http://mullin.house.gov, and at 3109 Azalea Park Drive, Muskogee, OK, 74401, 918-687-2533 or 202-225-2701