Groups Urge Immediate Action on FTAs

US - An ad hoc coalition of agricultural and food organisations in a letter sent yesterday urged members of Congress to work with the Obama administration to remove any remaining impediments to a “rapid implementation” of the free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.
calendar icon 9 July 2010
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At the recent G20 Summit in Toronto, President Obama announced a November deadline for dealing with outstanding obstacles to the implementation of the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to gain congressional approval of the deal in 2011.

That agreement and the FTAs with Colombia and Panama were finalised more than three years ago – and approved in those countries – but are awaiting congressional action.

The 42 groups that signed on to the letter pointed out that other countries are moving forward with FTAs with Colombia, Panama and South Korea to the detriment of the United States. Canada and Colombia, for example, recently approved a trade deal that gives duty-free access to a host of Canadian products going into the South American nation.

Over the past five years, Colombia has been the largest market in South America for US agricultural products, with exports totaling $4.3 billion. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the US-Colombia FTA would boost US agricultural exports by more than $815 million a year.

“But now that Canada has gained preferential access ahead of us,” the organisations said. “We are likely to be operating in catch-up mode for years to come.”

That already is occurring for some sectors. US feed grain producers, for example, have been particularly hard hit because of the preferential access their foreign competitors have in the Colombian market, with the US market share falling sharply from 96 per cent in 2007 to 38 per cent in 2009.

“The fact is, literally hundreds of FTAs are being negotiated around the world, and global trade liberalisation is taking place. But it is taking place with the United States standing on the sidelines,” said the groups.

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