Monday, October 24th, 2011

SPI Leaders at White House for Free Trade Agreements Signing; Obama Acknowledges Plastics Industry in His Address

Bill Carteaux, president of SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association, and Jon Kurrle, SPI’s VP for government and industry affairs, were members of a group of business leaders addressed by President Barack Obama directly following the President’s signing of Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama. The SPI presence at the White House on October 21, 2011 was well deserved, and it should not have been a surprise when Obama mentioned “plastic manufacturers” in his remarks to the group.

Bill Carteaux at Free trade agreement signing at White House

SPI president (foreground) Bill Carteaux with President Obama following the signing of Free Trade Agreements with Panama, South Korea, and Colombia.

Carteaux said prior to the signing that he was honored to be invited to the White House to celebrate the three Free Trade Agreements because, “SPI’s advocacy team [headed up by Kurrle] aided by our dedicated members, worked countless hours and made, literally, hundreds of Capitol Hill visits in support of these agreements.”

I was invited to take part in four of those visits during SPI’s recent Fall Board Conference. On the afternoon of the Conference’s first day, October 5, 2011, SPI members met with many House  and Senate members and their staffers, the sessions pre-arranged by Kurrle’s team at SPI. We were well briefed by the SPI team before the meetings so that we all could advocate for the plastic industry’s key issues, one of them being passage of the Free Trade Agreements.

Two weeks later, the FTAs with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea were signed, and that is what advocacy is all about. Speaking privately with several SPI members during the conference, and hearing others during the meetings with House members, the message was clear from them: The FTAs are good for their businesses.

Does anyone in America think the USA does not need more exports? If you do think actually balancing our balance of trade, or at least coming close to balancing it, is not vital to our economy, it’s beyond my range of understanding.

And speaking of exports, South Korea is currently the 10th largest export market for U.S. plastics, with resin-related exports to that country jumping 44% since 2000. Colombia is the 16th largest export market for U.S. plastics, and since 2000 U.S. plastics exports to that country have

increased by 163%. SPI noted that although Panama is not currently a top market for the U.S. plastics industry, it has shown tremendous growth potential. Since 2000, plastics exports to Panama have jumped by 107%. SPI members at the Fall Board Conference were very positive about the FTAs.

Jon Kurrle of SPI greets President Obama

Jon Kurrle (left, back to camera), SPI’s VP for government and industry affairs, regularly meets government officials, and this time it’s President Obama.

I’m not sure all SPI members realize just how much is being done by the Association in the way of public policy and advocacy. In my short time with SPI I’ve been seeing a high level of ongoing activity — hourly, daily, weekly — at a high level of professionalism. Example: I and the many other SPI members and staff going to meet members of Congress each were given personalized info packets prepared by Kurrle’s team. They contained our scheduled meetings, background info on the issues, information about the official we were meeting, and more. Clearly, a lot of hard work went into preparing those kits, and an excellent job it was.

SPI pursues a significant number of significant policy issues concurrently. To appreciate the range of public policy issues SPI works with look here. When you do, if you’re an SPI member, please think about getting involved. If I can talk to members of Congress on behalf of the plastics industry, so can you. FYI, they listened; they asked good questions; and if passing the FTAs is any indication, they took action on your behalf. Thanks to SPI’s work, even the President gave us a shout-out. And if you’re in the U.S. plastics industry but not an SPI member, the door is open and you are welcome.

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