Talks resume next week on an international free trade agreement which a key American diplomat says could be vital to maintaining and creating jobs in Iowa. Ambassador and former U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barchefsky says the Trans-Pacific Partnership would protect innovation and what’s known as intellectual property in a host of industries, including I-T and biotechnology.

Barchefsky says, “Iowa is a very, very important state in this regard with $5-billion of economic output in your state coming from the biopharmaceutical industry alone.” The trade agreement includes the U.S., Canada and Mexico, along with Australia, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

In an interview with Radio Iowa, Barchefsky says Iowa’s exports to the Asia-Pacific nations in 2009 exceeded eight-billion dollars and included everything from grain and pork to farm implements. “Almost 2,500 companies exported from Iowa, 82% of those are small and medium-sized firms with less than 500 employees,” Barchefsky says. “This is spectacular performance.”

Barchefsky, who was the chief trade negotiator and principal trade policymaker for the United States from 1997 to 2001, says international corporate giants in the tech world, like Apple or Google, often start with just two or three people and an idea that’s nurtured and is allowed to grow.

“Iowa excels in this kind of activity so an agreement that encourages and protects that kind of activity is very, very important,” she says. “An agreement that supports machinery exports, agriculture exports, chemicals, areas where again Iowa excels, becomes very, very important.”

While the multi-nation free trade agreement has been in negotiations for several years, off and on, Barchesky says it could have a significant impact at the state and local level. “Iowa’s exports in the first half of this year increased 22%,” she says. “The national average is 7%, so you guys, on the export side, are going gangbusters. What we want though, what Iowans and all of us should want, is to amp that up even further.”

The trade talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership are returning to the U.S., resuming on September 6th in Virginia.