Four years of trade benefits for U.S. farmers, ranchers and food processors have been forfeited because of inaction on pending free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, according to J. Patrick Boyle, president and CEO, American Meat Institute. The comments were made in a guest column published on The Hill blog.

“What once were fears about inaction are now sad realties,” Boyle writes. Australia is aggressively working to beat the United States to the finish line and sign a FTA with Korea, ensuring that exports of Australian meat products and other agricultural goods will have immediate market-access advantage over U.S. products in the Korean market.

He also noted that the European Union’s FTA with Korea was implemented July 1, and the U.S. could be completely shut out of this pork market in 10 years if we don’t act soon.

Colombia is also on the verge of implementing FTAs with Canada (set to go into effect August 15) and the European Union. Other major agricultural exporting countries, such as Argentina and Brazil, already have preferential access to that market.

Boyle said that perhaps the biggest consequence of our government’s inaction on these FTAs is that Korea is waiting to act until our Congress approves the agreement first. In the meantime, opposition leaders in the Korean government are using the time to seek changes to the terms of the original pact, including retention of a 42 percent tariff on American beef for 10 years from ratification.

Passage and full implementation of the three FTAs would represent an additional $2.3 billion in exports and the creation of 29,524 new jobs here at home, according to Boyle. Many of these jobs are in rural areas of the U.S. where prospects of true economic development are seldom presented. The data also reveal that passage of the agreements could increase U.S. exports of pork by $772 million, beef by $1.4 billion, and poultry by $102 million.

“But the future for these trade deals, and their potential for job and economic growth, only diminishes as we move closer to the fall and into an election year,” Boyle said.

Read the column in its entirety.

Source: AMI