Ag Groups Urge Immediate Action on Free Trade Agreements
Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011
A coalition of agricultural and food organizations and companies in an open letter to President Obama and members of Congress released today urged immediate action on the free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.
The trade deals, each of which was signed more than four years ago, continue to languish.
The coalition has been asking that they be considered before Congress begins its August
recess, but it now appears that the FTAs won't be taken up until lawmakers return in September.
The groups pointed out that U.S. industries have been losing market share in Colombia and South Korea ever since those countries implemented trade agreements with other nations.
In the first two weeks after the FTA between the European Union and South Korea became effective (July 1) trade volume between the two rose 17.4 percent. Exports from Korea to the EU rose 19 percent, and exports from the EU to Korea rose 16 percent, according to South Korean government figures.
Likewise, the U.S. share of Colombia's agricultural imports has fallen since 2008 because of the trade agreements Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay negotiated with Colombia. The U.S. share of Colombia's corn, wheat and soybeans markets, for example, has fallen to 28 percent from 78 percent over the past three years. U.S. agricultural products likely will take another hit Aug. 15 when Colombia's FTA with Canada takes effect.
"It's difficult to watch years of market development efforts evaporate in a matter of months because, even as low-cost producers, we are not able to compete on the basis of price," said the coalition in its letter, which was signed by more than 120 agricultural and food groups and companies. "If our competitors pay lower tariffs, we will become a residual supplier - if we supply anything at all."
The groups also pointed out that further delay in approving the FTAs, particularly the deal with South Korea, could allow, for example, opposition to the agreements in the other countries to coalesce.
"The seemingly endless delays on our side do not serve our economic or foreign policy interests, and they run the risk of causing long-term damage to U.S. food and farm exports," said the coalition letter.
National Pork Council