Farm Bureau & 41 other groups urge Congress to implement stalled FTAs

By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, July 8 – Major agricultural and food organizations wrote congressional leaders Thursday urging them to work with the Obama administration to remove any remaining impediments to a “rapid implementation” of pending Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.

On Wednesday, President Obama said he plans to submit the three stalled FTAs “as soon as possible for congressional consideration.” At the G20 Summit in Toronto June 26, President Obama announced a November deadline for dealing with outstanding obstacles to the implementation of the U.S.-Korea FTA to gain congressional approval of the deal in 2011. Yet concerns remain that adding provisions regarding access for U.S. exports along with worker and environmental protections could continue to stall action on the three agreements.

The Korea agreement and the FTAs with Colombia and Panama were finalized more than three years ago – and approved in those countries – but are awaiting congressional action.

The 42 groups that signed on to the letter pointed out that other countries are moving forward with FTAs with Colombia, Panama and South Korea to the detriment of the United States. Canada and Colombia, for example, recently approved a trade deal that gives duty-free access to a host of Canadian products going into the South American nation.

Over the past five years, Colombia has been the largest market in South America for U.S. agricultural products, with exports totaling $4.3 billion. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the U.S.-Colombia FTA would boost U.S. agricultural exports by more than $815 million a year.

“But now that Canada has gained preferential access ahead of us,” the organizations wrote, “we are likely to be operating in catch-up mode for years to come.” That already is the lost-opportunities case for some sectors. U.S feed grain producers, for example, have been particularly hard hit because of the preferential access their foreign competitors have in the Colombian market, with the U.S. market share falling sharply from 96 percent in 2007 to 38 percent in 2009.

“The fact is, literally hundreds of FTAs are being negotiated around the world, and global trade liberalization is taking place. But it is taking place with the United States standing on the sidelines,” the letter states.

To read the three-page letter from the 42 groups including the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Feed Industry Association, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, the International Dairy Foods Association, the National Association of Wheat Growers, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the Sweetener Users Association, and United Egg Producers, go to:

To read Agri-Pulse coverage of the Toronto meeting in which Obama pledged to move ahead with the South Korean FTA, go to:

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