WASHINGTON –More than a dozen food manufacturing associations, including the American Meat Institute (AMI), urged leaders of Congress to support fast action on pending trade initiatives, including swift approval and implementation of free-trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.

Time was of the essence for action on the trade agreements because the market share and access currently enjoyed is at stake since Colombia, Panama and South Korea already have, or are pursuing, free-trade pacts with some of the United States’ biggest economic competitors, such as the European Union and Canada, the groups stressed.

“Each of these pending agreements provides significant new market access opportunities for the foods we produce, including immediate duty-free access for many of our products and greatly improved tariff treatment for other products,” the groups said in the letter. “We encourage Congress and the White House to take all necessary steps to ensure each of these agreements can be approved and implemented as soon as possible.”

Congress was also urged to approve long-term extensions of the Andean Trade Preferences and Drug Eradication Act and the Generalized System of Preferences. “These trade preference agreements enable US businesses to globally source inputs and products, not readily available in the US, helping to reduce costs for businesses and consumers,” they wrote. “Reauthorizing these agreements will go a long way to reducing the uncertainties many of our companies now face when attempting to engage international trade partners.”

In 2010, AMI and other interested parties figured out estimates on the impact of full implementation of these three free-trade agreements on US exports and job creation. According to their the impact study, passing the pending Colombian, South Korean, and Panamanian free-trade agreements would represent an additional $2.3 billion in meat and poultry exports and would create 29,524 new jobs.