President Obama’s submission to Congress of free-trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia is a positive step toward improving the U.S. balance of trade and creating new jobs in America, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). The three long-delayed trade agreements were sent to Congress for approval Monday.

The USDA has estimated that approval of the trade pacts would increase U.S. agricultural exports by $2.31 billion. They also would create an estimated 20,000 U.S. jobs.

“This move by President Obama is a critical step toward passing free-trade agreements that will help ensure a level playing field for U.S. exports internationally,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “We congratulate our trade negotiators for keeping these FTAs moving forward and urge Congress to move quickly to ratify them.”

The FTA with South Korea would provide the biggest boost to exports. For pork, exports would more than double (from 2010 value) to more than $400 million by 2016, according to USMEF. The news is also welcomed by the U.S. beef industry. It is projected that the U.S.-South Korea FTA would boost beef exports to more than $1 billion per year over the 15-year implementation period – up from $518 million in 2010.

Korea is currently the fourth-largest value market for both U.S. pork and beef exports and the FTA will reduce duties of 40 percent on beef, and about 25 percent on pork, to zero, making U.S. meat even more competitive.

The House Ways and Means Committee is expected to formally address the three trade pacts on Wednesday.

“These are obviously important agreements at a time when demand for U.S. meats and livestock is in a somewhat precarious position given the state of the U.S. economy,” according to the CME Daily Livestock Report. “Getting the agreements finalized and ratified has become even more important with the recent enactment of FTAs by the EU with Korea and Canada with Colombia.”

"Congress should work swiftly to pass these trade agreements,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement following the submission of the trade agreements. “Currently, Korea, Colombia and Panama have approved or are negotiating trade agreements with a host of other nations. Completing our agreements will level the playing field and secure markets for America's farmers, ranchers, growers and producers ahead of competitors in the global marketplace.”

"Over the past two years, as the nation has rebounded from the worst recession in decades, American agriculture has shattered trade records and created jobs," according to Vilsack. “These agreements will build on that success, helping provide higher incomes for producers, more opportunities for small businesses owners and jobs for folks who package, ship, and market agricultural products. If we're going to get America working again, these trade agreements are critical. We cannot afford to leave these jobs on the table."

Fact sheets on how all three trade agreements will benefit U.S. agriculture are available here: Korea, Colombia and Panama.

Source: USMEF, CME Daily Livestock Report, USDA