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Views on Ratification of FTAs; USDA Statement

04 October 2011

US - President Obama yesterday sent three long-stalled free trade agreements (FTAs), with South Korea, Panama and Colombia, to Congress for final ratification.

American Meat Institute (AMI) President and CEO J. Patrick Boyle urged swift congressional action on the three trade pacts and highlighted the positive impact full implementation would have on both the meat and poultry industry and the US economy as a whole.

Mr Boyle said: "These agreements contain significant export gains for our meat and poultry products that will only be realized by passage and implementation," Mr Boyle said. "Conversely, inaction has proven to result in loss of US market share and forfeiture of economic growth."

Mr Boyle pointed out that the three trade agreements combined represent more than $2 billion of additional agriculture exports to these trading partners.

According to a recent impact study conducted in part by AMI, the Korean, Colombian and Panamanian FTAs would also represent the creation of 29,524 new jobs in the US meat and poultry sectors.

The data also reveal that passage of the agreements could increase US exports of beef by $1.4 billion, pork by $772 million and poultry by $102 million. The jobs resulting from this growth, both in the commodity groups and downstream, would include an estimated 18,000 jobs in the beef industry, 10,300 jobs in the pork industry and 1,200 jobs in the poultry industry.

"We applaud our trade negotiators for their work in getting these agreements to the next step, and we urge Congress to quickly ratify them to take full advantage of the opportunity they provide for America’s much needed economic growth," Mr Boyle concluded.

President of the American Farm Bureau Federation, Bob Stallman, said: "The American Farm Bureau Federation is pleased that President Obama has sent implementing legislation to Congress today to ratify three bilateral free-trade agreements between the United States and Korea, Colombia and Panama. America’s farmers and ranchers have much at stake and the fact these three agreements are moving forward is very good news for our economy."

"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 US 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.

"Combined, the three FTAs represent nearly $2.5 billion in new agriculture exports and would create the economic growth that could generate support for up to 22,500 US jobs. These gains will only be realised if the three agreements are passed by Congress and implemented," Mr Stallman concluded.

NFU says Congress should oppose pending FTAs

However, the National Farmers' Union is of the opinion that congress should oppose these pending FTAs. NFU President Roger Johnson said, "These three agreements are similar to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Both of those agreements have worsened the US trade deficit, because the US does not compete on a level playing field with other nations. America adheres to higher labor and environmental standards than other nations, so US companies incur costs that companies in other nations do not.

"Labour and environmental standards, currency manipulation, and food security are protections that are absolutely essential in any trade agreement to ensure that a nation is able to protect itself and compete on a level playing field. In particular, South Korea has manipulated its currency twice in the past. Mexico devalued the peso shortly after the signing of NAFTA, wiping out all trade gains that the US would have gotten otherwise. History is very likely to repeat itself without currency manipulation protections."

According to Mr Johnson, Colombia has one of the worst labor records in the world, routinely committing violence against those who attempt to organise workers. In 2010, 51 union members were killed in Colombia.

"We should not reward the Colombian labor record by entering into a trade agreement with them," he said.

"Agriculture has been one of the few sectors of the US trade economy that consistently has a trade surplus. Since 1990, agriculture has had a positive trade balance every year. With countries that the US has a trade agreement with, US agriculture has a net trade deficit in seven of the past eight years.

"NFU strongly urges members of Congress to oppose the Korea, Panama, and Colombia Free Trade Agreements," concluded Mr Johnson.

FTA's Welcomed by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said: "Congress must now take action on an important part of President Obama's jobs agenda: new trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea and trade adjustment assistance to help train workers for the 21st century economy.

"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.

He added: "Congress should work swiftly to pass these trade agreements. Currently, Korea, Columbia and Panama have approved or are negotiating trade agreements with a host of other nations. Completing our agreements will level the playing field and secure markets for America's farmers, ranchers, growers and producers ahead of competitors in the global marketplace.

"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. 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."

Further Reading

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