Keeping the pressure on Congress, an ad hoc coalition of agricultural and food organizations is urging lawmakers to work with the Obama administration to remove remaining impediments to a “rapid implementation” of the free-trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.
At the recent G20 Summit in Toronto, President Obama announced a November deadline for dealing with outstanding obstacles of implementing the U.S./Korea FTA and gain congressional approval of the deal in 2011.
The agreement with South Korean, as well as the FTAs with Colombia and Panama were finalized more than three years ago – and approved in those countries. However, they are still 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 United States’ detriment. Canada and Colombia, for example, recently approved a trade deal that gives duty-free access to a host of Canadian products moving to 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 annually.
“But now that Canada has gained preferential access ahead of us,” the coalition said, “we will likely operate in catch-up mode for years to come.”
That’s already occurring for some sectors. For example, U.S feed grain producers have been particularly hard hit because of the preferential access their foreign competitors have in the Colombian market. The U.S. market share has dropped 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,” said the coalition.
You can read the coalition letterhere.