Vilsack, Commodity Groups Urge Swift Action on Korea, Colombia and Panama FTAs

October 4, 2011 01:54 AM

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack is pleased the Obama Administration has transmitted to Congress implementing legislation for the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. Several ag-related groups also made statements applauding the move.

Vilsack says Congress must now take action on the trade move. "When approved, these agreements will clear the way for new American exports around the world, help create jobs and provide new income opportunities for our nation’s agricultural producers, small businesses, and rural communities. For American agriculture, passage of these agreements means over $2.3 billion in additional exports, supporting nearly 20,000 jobs here at home," said the ag chief.

"Over the past two years, as the nation has rebounded from the worst recession in decades, American agriculture has shattered trade records and created jobs. And these agreements will build on that success, helping provide higher incomes for producers, more opportunities for small businesses owners and jobs for folks who package, ship, and market agricultural products," added Vilsack. "If we’re going to get America working again, then these trade agreements are critical. We cannot afford to leave these jobs on the table."

American Farm Bureau Federation president Bob Stallman said, "Now that the administration has done its part, it’s up to Congress to expedite this matter. It is vital that this process move forward to ensure the agreements will be put in place as soon as possible so we can restore a level playing field for U.S. exports to these three nations. Without these agreements, over the last four years, Korea, Colombia and Panama have opened their doors to our competitors. A further delay will provide more benefits to our competitors at the expense of our economy."

American Soybean Association president Alan Kemper says the trade agreements would facilitate growth in trade. But he adds, "These export gains can only be realized by passage and implementation of the three trade agreements. After nearly a five-year delay, we have experienced firsthand the loss of U.S. market share to competitors in those markets. We urge Congress and the White House to work together to take full advantage of the economic boost that these FTAs provide the American economy."

The U.S. Meat Export Federation says if implemented, it is projected the FTA would boost U.S. beef exports to more than $1 billion per year over the 15-year implementation period – up from $518 million in 2010. For pork, exports would more than double (from 2010 value) to more than $400 million by 2016. Korea is currently the fourth-largest value market for both U.S. Beef and pork exports and the FTA will reduce duties of 40 percent on beef and about 25 percent on pork to zero, making U.S. red meat even more competitive.

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