WASHINGTON, Oct. 13- The House and Senate approved trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama last night after almost five years of negotiations. Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) called the passage “a good day for American exporters and the American economy.”
The votes in the House were: Colombia: 262-167; Panama 300-129; and South Korea: 278-151. In the Senate, Colombia passed 66-33; Panama 77-22; and South Korea 83-15. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) voted against all three measures.
The House also passed a Senate-approved measure to expand a benefits program for workers who lose jobs to foreign competition by a vote of 307 to 122 with strong Democratic support.
With the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program in place along with the trade agreements, South Korea’s president will meet with President Obama and address a joint meeting of Congress today. Obama said he looks forward to signing the trade agreements, “which will help achieve my goal of doubling American exports and keeping America competitive in the 21st century.”
Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) released a statement encouraging further action by the administration.
“These votes in the Senate are a very important step in the right direction, but they were delayed unnecessarily for years, and the rest of the world is moving ahead without us,” he said. “The administration needs to move forward on other job-generating trade initiatives without delay.”
According to the NCGA, since the EU-Korea trade agreement went into effect July 1, European exports to Korea have increased 36 percent from a year earlier. U.S. farmers lost more than $1 billion in sales to Colombia in the two years since that country implemented a trade deal with Argentina and Brazil and the Colombia-Canada Free Trade Agreement that took effect August 15 has also put U.S. workers and farmers at a disadvantage, said National Corn Growers Association President Garry Niemeyer.
“Korea is currently the United States’ third largest corn market,” Niemeyer said. “With passage of the FTA, imports of U.S. corn for feed are guaranteed to enter duty free immediately.”
According to National Cattlemen’s Beef Association president Bill Donald, the best example of what U.S. cattle producers have to gain is found in the FTA with Korea (KORUS). According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, annual exports of U.S. beef to South Korea are expected to increase as much as $1.8 billion once the agreement is fully implemented.
“We support the president’s goal to increase exports,” Donald said. “We need him to end the five-year delay and sign all three agreements.”
According to the American Soybean Association, the Colombia FTA will create new opportunities for U.S. soybean farmers in the Colombian market by immediately eliminating tariffs ranging from 5-20 percent on soybeans, soybean meal and soybean flour, and phasing-out the 24 percent tariffs for crude soybean oil and refined soybean oil over 5 years.
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