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Ag Groups and Administration Officials Stress Importance of Implementing Pending Free Trade Agreements

Friday, May 13, 2011

(American Meat Institute)

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk testified Thursday during a House Committee on Agriculture hearing to review pending free trade agreements (FTAs) with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.
“The message I hear from farm country is simple. We need an economy that makes, creates, and innovates, and we need a nation that exports,” said Secretary Vilsack.

“In a word, the most paramount reason to implement these three pending trade agreements is ‘jobs.’  For agricultural exports alone, USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) projects that on full implementation, the three agreements will yield over $2 billion in sales,” Vilsack told the committee.
ERS projects U.S. agricultural export gains under the Korea FTA would be more than $1.9 billion annually. The Colombia agreement will generate an increase of 44 percent in U.S. agricultural exports, or an additional $370 million per year. On full implementation of the Panama agreement, U.S. exporters can expect an additional $46 million in annual sales of rice, corn, meats, dairy and processed foods, Vilsack said.

During the hearing, committee members highlighted how the agreements would make U.S. agricultural products attractive to foreign markets by reducing and eliminating tariffs and non-tariff import restrictions.  Members also questioned Ambassador Kirk and Secretary  Vilsack about why the agreements had been delayed, citing concerns that the U.S. is losing  out to foreign competitors.

"Right now America's farmers and ranchers are competing in the global market in the face of stiff protectionism while their foreign competitors are gaining preferential treatment and access at their expense. We must act quickly and bring these agreements to a vote before July 1. These FTAs will expand U.S. exports, create jobs and bring much-needed income to communities across rural America. It is time for action," said Chairman Frank Lucas.

United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk also discussed ongoing efforts by the administration regarding the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement and improving market access to Russia.
“At the Office of the United States Trade Representative, our objective is to ensure access for American farmers and ranchers to a global customer base. The Obama administration has pursued a two-pronged approach that includes both negotiating new market-opening opportunities and enforcing our rights in the global trading system,” Kirk said.
The second panel of testimony included comments from a number of industry representatives including Gordon Stoner of Stoner Farms, on behalf of National Association of Wheat Growers and U.S. Wheat Associates; Rick Tolman, chief executive officer, National Corn Growers Association; Sam Carney, Carney Farms, Inc., on behalf of National Pork Producers Council; Roger Johnson, president, National Farmers Union; Bob Stallman, president, American Farm Bureau Federation; and Bill Donald, president, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
For more information on the hearing and full copies of witness testimonies, go to http://agriculture.house.gov/hearings/hearingDetails.aspx?NewsID=1383.

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