Obama urged to act on free-trade agreements

by Bryan Salvage
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WASHINGTON – In recent months, segments of the US meat and poultry industry have become increasingly vocal about their disappointment in the lack of progress being made in securing more free-trade agreements with other countries. This week, 67 freshman Republican members of the House of Representatives stressed in a letter to President Obama their commitment to the swift passage of three pending free-trade agreements, including deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.

“We stand ready to work with you to ensure that new opportunities are created for our farmers, manufacturers, service providers and workers by passing the three pending free-trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea within the next six months,” they wrote.

Although House members applauded the administration’s goal of doubling US exports by 2014, they wrote the three free-trade agreements must first be implemented to achieve this goal. These pending agreements have languished while competing countries “have aggressively pursued negotiations that exclude the US and put American workers at a competitive disadvantage,” the letter charged. “The time has come to put rhetoric into action,” they wrote.

In 2010, AMI worked closely with the National Pork Producers Council, Iowa State University, USDA’s ERS, US Meat Export Federation and the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council to conduct a comprehensive impact analysis to create estimates on the impact of full implementation of these three free-trade agreements on US exports and job creation. Passing the Korean, Colombian and Panamanian FTAs would represent an additional $2.3 billion in exports and the creation of 29,524 new jobs, the impact study determined. Many of these jobs are in rural areas of the US where prospects of true economic development are seldom presented.

Passing these FTAs could also boost US beef exports by $1.4 billion, pork by $772 million and poultry by $102 million, the data revealed. Jobs created, thanks to this growth both in the commodity groups and downstream, would include an estimated 18,000 jobs in the beef industry, 10,300 jobs in the pork industry and 1,200 jobs in the poultry industry.

Ron Kirk, US Trade Representative, plans to testify next week on these three pending FTAs before the Senate Finance Committee. In addition, the President’s Export Council plans to hold a public meeting to discuss topics relating to the National Export Initiative and promoting US exports, jobs and growth.
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