On Monday, President Bush sent legislation on to Congress that would implement the Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement. Under trade promotion authority that Congress has granted to the President, lawmakers have 90 days to approve – without amendments – or reject the trade pact.

Despite that law, U.S. House leadership has scheduled a vote for today to remove the 90-day timetable for acting on the Colombia agreement.

Calling it a move that will severely undermine U.S. credibility with its trading partners,National Pork Producers Council officials strongly condemn an attempt to indefinitely extend the timeline for Congress to vote on a free-trade agreement with Colombia.

“Should Congress remove the timetable, it will be bad for U.S. pork producers, bad for American agriculture and business, bad for Colombia’s economic and political stability, and bad for the prospects of future trade agreements such as Korea and Doha,” says Bryan Black, NPPC president and an Ohio producer. “If Congress disregards this trade law, it will undermine the credibility of the United States with its trading partners.”

The Colombia agreement would have significant benefits for U.S. business and agriculture. For the U.S. pork industry, when fully implemented, the deal would add $1.63 to the price producers receive for each hog marketed, generate $63 million in U.S. pork exports and create more than  945 new U.S. jobs tied to pork exports. 

Under the agreement, tariffs on some pork and pork products will be eliminated immediately while tariffs on others will be phased out over a five-year period. Like the Peru deal Congress approved last year, the Colombia agreement resolves sanitary and technical issues. The Colombian government, for example, agreed to recognize the meat inspection system of the United States as equivalent to its own inspection system.

“We urge lawmakers not only to preserve the 90-day timetable but to quickly take up and approve the Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement,” Black says.

In urging congressional approval, NPPC has pointed out that a trade pact with Colombia will benefit all U.S. agriculture and that 99 percent of the food and agriculture products exported by Colombia to the United States already enjoy duty-free access into the United States under the congressionally approved Andean Trade Preferences Act. It’s time to give U.S. products the same treatment, NPPC officials argue.

Source: National Pork Producers Council