Several free-trade agreements have been floating around in Congress awaiting approval. Now, an ad hoc coalition of food, feed and agricultural entities is urging Congress to promptly pass several such free-trade agreements.

Specifically, the coalition points to job creation as just one more incentive for action. For example, U.S. ag exports generate 8,000 U.S. jobs for every $1 billion of agricultural goods exported.

Specific trade deals sitting on the sidelines are ones involving Colombia, Panama and South Korea. Under each pact, many U.S. food and agricultural products would become eligible for duty-free treatment once the agreement is implemented and nearly all would receive duty-free treatment over specified phase-in periods, points out the National Pork Producers Council, one of the groups leading the coalition.

In a letter signed by 57 companies and organizations, the coalition has asked lawmakers to “heed the President’s call to aggressively expand market access opportunities, as our competitors are doing.”

Congress must act on the pending agreements soon, the coalition says, because other countries are moving forward on a host of trade deals. South Korea, for example, has concluded, is negotiating or is planning to enter talks on trade agreements with 11 countries, the European Union and blocs representing southeast Asian and South American nations.

In the case of U.S. pork producers, projections estimate that the FTA with Sourth Korea alone, would increase hog prices rise by $11 a head and would generate additional U.S. jobs. In total, the FTAs could result in thousands of U.S. jobs, notes NPPC.

According to USDA figures, U.S. agricultural exports in 2008 totaled $115.4 billion and supported 920,000 full-time civilian jobs, including 608,000 non-farm jobs. As the coalition pointed out to Congress, those economic benefits flow not only to rural communities but also to people working in transportation, processing and at ports.

In its letter, the coalition said it “strongly supports” President Obama’s pledge, made in his Jan. 27 State of the Union address, to double U.S. exports within five years as a way to create millions of new jobs.

The coalition also expressed concern about legislation (H.R. 3012 and S. 2821) that would require the administration to demand the re-negotiation of all current or pending trade agreements.

Source: NPPC