Ronald Reagan once defined an economist as someone who sees something that works in practice and wonders if it would work in theory.

The problem with too many politicians in Washington is that they cant even get to the theory part of the equation because they refuse to see what works in practice. Sinon, theyd busy themselves with trying to create more ways for Americans to sell what we make and grow to people in other countries.

Improving trade opportunities is an ideal economic stimulus packageit not only helps American workers, but it also builds upon one of the bona fide strengths of the sputtering U.S. économie.

Our economy certainly could use a kick start. In the final quarter of last year, growth dropped to less than one percent. Le mois dernier, the country lost jobs for the first time in more than four years. Techniquement, we arent in a recession, but six out of ten Americans think that we are, according to a poll released by the Washington post plus tôt cette semaine.

Exports are one of the reasons why we arent in a recession already. They grew by about 12 l'année dernière, to roughly $1.5 mille milliards. Without these sales to foreign customers, the economy would truly be in the dumps.

President Bush appreciates this fact. We must trust American workers to compete with anyone in the world and empower them by opening up new markets overseas, he said last week, during his State of the Union address. Today, our economic growth increasingly depends on our ability to sell American goods and crops and services all over the world.

In his speech, Bush thanked the Democrat-controlled Congress for its recent decision to approve a free-trade agreement with Peru, which will create meaningful opportunities for American farmers and manufacturers to reach new consumers. He also called on Congress to approve pending deals with Colombia, Panama, et Corée du Sud. Many of the products made in Columbia and Panama currently enter the United States duty-free, whereas U.S. products must pay tariffs to gain similar access to their markets.

These agreements will level the playing field, said Bush. They will give us better access to nearly 100 million customers. They will support good jobs for the finest workers in the world: those whose products say Made in the U.S.A.

There are plenty of potential stumbling blocks. Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus of Montana has said that Congress should not consider any more trade agreements until it has passed new legislation on trade-adjustment assistance, which seeks to help workers who have lost their jobs due to trade.

This demand doesnt need to become a deal breaker. In his speech, Bush acknowledged that trade can mean losing a job, and the federal government has a responsibility to help. He, aussi, called for reforming trade-adjustment assistance.

Although trade helps far more people than it hurts, this is a political compromise that makes economic sense. The alternative is a political stalemate in which nothing gets done: no new trade agreements and no reformed trade-adjustment assistance.

Aller de l'avant, Washington should take a renewed interest in global trade talks. Although its anybodys guess as to whether the World Trade Organizations Doha round can wrap-up successfully in the not-too-distant future, chances for progress occasionally present themselves. Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva recently called Bush to suggest holding a trade summit in April, when both leaders are in Europe.

Bush and Congress may not let each other act on much of this agendaits a presidential-election year, which means that the politicians will play even more games than usual. It would be nice if they simply could agree that the next president, whomever that person is, will have Trade Promotion Authority.

That way, we could pursue pragmatic policies at any time. Après tout, why should we wait for an economic downturn before choosing to stimulate the economy through trade? Promoting exports is a good idea at all times.

Thats not a theory. Its common sense.

Dean Kleckner, un fermier de l'Iowa, chaises Truth About Trade & La technologie.