Beef industry to Congress: Act on trade agreements

by Bryan Salvage
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WASHINGTON – Although on July 7 President Obama announced progress on his pledge to double U.S. exports over the next five years, including the development of a new presidential advisory council on exports, his announcement was overshadowed by reports of a multimillion-dollar trade deal to facilitate New Zealand beef exports into China as a result of a recent bilateral trade agreement.

“While we’re certainly pleased to see the President once again emphasizing the issue of trade, so far, we haven’t seen much in terms of results,” said Steve Foglesong, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (N.C.B.A.) president. “It’s extremely unfortunate that our international competitors are moving forward on new trade deals while the U.S. continues to sit on the sidelines.”

China , which is the only major market remaining closed to U.S. beef, has recently made beef-trade deals with Canada and New Zealand. China represents one of the largest potential growth markets for the U.S. beef industry, worth in excess of $200 million, according to N.C.B.A.

“Over the past three years and two administrations, we’ve seen little progress in opening the Chinese market to U.S. beef, despite the fact that this market is one of the top priorities for our industry,” Foglesong complained. “It’s time to stop talking, and start taking some action.”

N.C.B.A. continues to urge Congress to heed President Obama’s call to move forward on the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (K.O.R.U.S. F.T.A.). If implemented, the K.O.R.U.S. F.T.A. would reduce Korea’s current tariff from 40% to zero over 15 years. With other countries like Australia moving forward on trade agreements with Korea, it’s more important than ever that Congress take immediate action.

If Australia were to successfully ratify a similar bilateral trade agreement with Korea a year before the U.S., it would give the Australians a 2.67% tariff advantage over U.S. beef for the next 15 years.

“We’re continuing to lose ground to our competitors when it comes to agricultural trade and we’re still missing roughly $1.5 billion in annual beef exports as a result of unresolved beef market access barriers. Every new deal signed by our competitors puts U.S. farmers and ranchers at a competitive disadvantage and jeopardizes producer profitability,” Foglesong said. “With 96% of the world’s consumers living outside U.S. borders, expanding our opportunities to sell beef in the international marketplace is not an option; it’s a necessity.”

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