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AMI Wichita Eagle Guest Opinion: Free Trade Agreements Help Create Jobs in Kansas

Thursday, July 8, 2010

(American Meat Institute)

“In a state like Kansas where the number of cattle processed per year – 6.5 million – is more than double the size of the human population of the state, it’s abundantly clear that trade is an essential component of the state’s economy,” says AMI President and CEO J. Patrick Boyle in a guest editorial in today’s Wichita Eagle.  

Boyle points out that our ability to export the abundance of America and realize the potential of trade is being blocked by tariffs and other trade barriers put in place to make our meat and poultry products less competitive in international markets.  “Fortunately, opportunity is knocking on our front door in the form of three Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) – with South Korea, Colombia and Panama – that were negotiated more than 1,090 days ago during the Bush Administration, but are still awaiting approval by Congress.” 

According to a recent report, passage and full implementation of these three FTAs currently pending would represent the potential creation of 29,524 new jobs, fueled by the additional $2.3 billion in additional meat and poultry exports.  The study shows that passage of the agreements could increase U.S. exports of beef by $1.4 billion, pork by $772 million and poultry by $102 million.  And according to USDA’s Economic Research Service and industry sources, for every $1 billion of product sold, there exists the potential to create either 12,700 jobs in the beef industry, 13,333 jobs in the pork industry or 11,853 jobs in the poultry industry.

“Naturally, this would also mean jobs and revenue for Kansas.  While the U.S. meat and poultry industry contributes about $832 billion in total to the U.S. economy ─ nearly 6 percent of the GDP ─ a significant portion of that is in the Sunflower state,” says Boyle, adding that nearly one-fifth of the cattle processed in the U.S. come from Kansas. “In fact, the meat industry employs an estimated 70,452 people in Kansas, who earn nearly $2.2 billion in wages and have an economic footprint of nearly $10.8 billion,” he says.

Boyle also notes that despite this country’s imperative to create new and good-paying jobs and foster economic growth, the major forces blocking these agreements from being passed are domestic, not foreign.  “Protectionists in the U.S. who foster a ‘fortress America’ mentality fail to see that international trade actually diversifies our economy, expands employment opportunities and allows us to enjoy the benefits of growth,” he adds.

Boyle points to the recent FTA reached between Canada and Colombia and the potential exports now open to the Canadian meat and poultry sector. “The unfortunate reality of trade is that while we sit on our hands here, our competitors are seizing market shares that could be ours and will be difficult to win back later,” he adds.

“In the economic times in which we find ourselves, when opportunity knocks, if you do not open your door before your competitor does, then you will miss an opportunity,” Boyle notes.  “Congress needs to have to enough faith in the determination and ingenuity of the American people and the excellence of our goods that they will pass these agreements and allow us to compete on a level playing field in other markets.  If they fail to do so, American agriculture will lose these opportunities to our competitors in other countries.”

To view the op-ed in its entirety, click here:  http://bit.ly/bCPNt2

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