By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 13 – U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and South Korea's Ambassador to the U.S. Han Duk-soo said Thursday they're confident Congress will OK the “win-win” U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) by July 1. That's the date a new European trade deal with Korea takes effect. Ambassador Kirk said missing this deadline would leave farmers, ranchers and other U.S. exporters at a competitive disadvantage.

At a forum held by the moderate “Third Way” think tank, Kirk and Han recalled the time they both spent barnstorming the U.S. to listen to concerns about the FTA which the Bush administration completed in 2007. They said they responded to skeptics by revising the agreement to attract more U.S. auto industry and labor union support in particular, resulting in bipartisan support in Congress. Kirk said administration officials have been meeting with members of Congress virtually daily to solidify this support.

Two tough negotiators now partners in promoting the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement, L to R,
Korean Ambassador Han Duk-soo & U.S. Ambassador Ron Kirk. Photos: Agri-Pulse

Kirk dismissed the idea that getting the Korean FTA approved by July means that the other two stalled FTAs, with Colombia and Panama, could also be approved soon. He said the same effort which went into improving the Korean deal now will be required before finalizing the other two FTAs.

Kirk stressed that the Korean FTA “extends all across the agricultural sector which will see significant tariff reductions and the elimination of non-tariff barriers to exports as well.” He said that in his meetings around the country, “And almost everyone in agriculture made the point to me that unlike any other industry, agriculture is more dependent on exports than any other American product because we are so ridiculously productive in what we grow, what we raise, what we produce on America's farms. We can't consume it all here. We have to find homes for those additional beef and other products like soybeans.”

Kirk concluded that farmers and ranchers “explicitly understood this is good for their industry and that Korea in particular would help us advance our agricultural sales. . . when we talk about agriculture in particular, that's one place America wins all across the board.”

For more details on the U.S.-Korea FTA, click HERE. For coverage of announcing the new agreement Dec. 3, with links to White House materials, click HERE.

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