How do we breathe some life into the agriculture economy? About 75 percent of what we produce is sold domestically. The other 25 percent is exported. Maybe we can grow the domestic market some, but the real opportunity can be found beyond our borders.
In fact, shortly after confirmation in a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, our new U.S. Trade Ambassador Ron Kirk pointed out that the Obama Administration is working to put its stamp on bilateral trade agreements with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea that were negotiated by the Bush Administration. He said, “Our success in resolving outstanding issues will determine the pace at which we move forward with our FTAs.”
Well, the pace is discouragingly slow. Nothing is happening.
Recently, the South Korean President arrived in Washington to meet with President Obama. As close allies, we are standing shoulder to shoulder against the North Korean nuclear threat. It was a perfect time to show solidarity by agreeing to move ahead with the free trade agreement with South Korea. Just think of all the beef we could sell.
But no! Nothing was done.
The same thing happened to the President of Colombia, who visited a couple of weeks ago. President Obama sent him home empty-handed. No deal! Colombia is a friend of ours in opposition to Venezuela dictator Hugo Chavez. The trade pact would end duties on tons of our farm products, expanding sales dramatically.
I thought the President was moving on the Panama deal, but now, apparently that sits in limbo.
I credit the President for his modest move to lift some of the financial obstacles in trade with Cuba, but even there we simply need to do more – faster.
We are in a recession that is pushing unemployment up. We need jobs and economic activity. The most effective and easy way to improve the situation is to open the trade channels.
Our trade problems are not being addressed. Improperly naming our new flu “Swine Flu” has hammered pork exports. The House spending bill has a provision that bars the imports of Chinese chicken. Now, they won’t buy our chicken.
There are market opportunities within our reach and we aren’t doing anything.
Until next week, I am John Block from Washington, D.C.