As the former Chairman of the House Ways & Means Subcommitte on Trade, I understand how trade is critical to the prosperity of our nation, and to Texas. Our state is the number one exporting state in the nation, and one of the fastest growing. The Port of Houston is the second largest in the United States, first when you count tonnage. The goods and services we produce are sold around the world -- creating good-paying jobs right here at home. One in five manufacturing jobs in Texas results from trade. One in three acres Texas farmers plant are sold abroad. And 280,000 jobs in the Houston region are associated with the economic activity the Port generates.
That's why I'm so pleased that Congress passed and the President signed three key sales agreements in this Congress. The new free trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia will mean business for our south texas ports and customers for Texans.
The principle in trade is this: If we, as Americans, build a better mouse trap, we ought to be able to sell it anywhere in the world without discrimination. If someone else builds a better mouse trap, we ought to be able to buy it for our families and our businesses.
But as our business owners and farmers look to sell their products overseas, more often than not, they find the world market tilted against them. Other countries have negotiated over 100 bilateral trade agreements that benefit each other -- but leave the United States out. Our competitors erect barriers to our goods and services that make it difficult to do business. U.S. trade policy must focus on tearing down these unfair barriers.
That's why I have supported a range of trade negotiations -- at the global level, regional and bilateral -- that can help level the playing field for U.S. workers and brighten our economic future -- especially at a time when we need it the most. Our bilateral partners make up only 7% of the world's economy, but they are some of our best customers, buying over 40% of all that the United States sells. In 2008, as our nation has faced dire economic times, exports have been the one bright spot in our economy -- helping to keep our GDP afloat.
And a new global trade agreement, however far from reach it might be, will help to increase the standard of living for all and is a worthy goal for us to continue to pursue.
That's why I have called for a renewed authority for the next President to continue to negotiate market-opening trade agreements.
America shouldn't retreat from competition in the world marketplace, we should insist on it. It is America's strength and the key to the high-tech, high-paying jobs of the future.