With the announcement this week of an agreement to provide benefits for job losses related to trade, the chances for progress on free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama took a big step forward. The Obama administration has urged Congress to quickly approve the free trade deals.

The U.S. pork industry would gain substantial increases in pork exports with approval of the South Korea deal. It is estimated that Korea alone will absorb 5 percent of total U.S. pork production. When fully implemented, the FTA will create more than 9,100 new jobs because of increased pork exports alone.

“It is imperative that the agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea be approved before Congress takes its month-long break,” said Doug Wolf, National Pork Producers Council president and a pork producer from Lancaster, Wis. “U.S. pork producers need new and expanded market access to remain competitive in the global marketplace. And the way to get that is through free trade agreements.”

“The NPPC is pleased that the Obama administration is urging Congress to approve the FTA with South Korea and that the Senate Finance Committee will hold a markup on all three FTAs,” said David Warner, NPPC director of communications. “We continue to urge lawmakers to pass the deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea before Congress begins its August recess.”

The U.S.-South Korea trade agreement will generate an additional $687 million in U.S. pork exports and would lift U.S. hog prices by $10 per animal when fully implemented. This increase in live hog prices would remain true even assuming that both Canada and the EU implement FTAs with South Korea.

South Korea is expecting enactment of trade agreements with the European Union on July 1, and with Canada about six weeks later. Without approval of the trade agreement with the United States, the E.E. and Canada agreements would put American workers and farmers at a competitive disadvantage.

Washington’s delay in approving the U.S. trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama also puts American jobs at risk, according to a U.S. Chamber study. President Obama has said the South Korea FTA will support more than 70,000 jobs nationwide and double U.S. exports within five years.
The International Trade Commission has estimated that the Korea FTA alone would annually add $10 billion to $11 billion to the U.S. GDP and roughly $10 billion to U.S. exports to Korea.

U.S. corn growers are also encouraged with the movement in the FTAs and anticipate quick approval by Congress. The National Corn Growers Association applauded the Senate Finance Committee’s announcement of a mock mark-up on the pending free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama. Mock mark-ups provide legislative committees the opportunity to offer amendments to the proposals. Final versions of implementing bills are submitted to Congress for an up or down vote.

“NCGA is greatly encouraged by the movement on the pending FTAs,” NCGA President Bart Schott said.  “The United States is the largest corn producer and exporter in the world and developing new markets for our country’s agricultural products will help our sector lead the nation in economic growth and international competiveness.”

Last year, the United States exported 50.4 million metric tons of corn worldwide, according to NCGA. Corn co-products such as distillers grains also represent a growing export market for domestic producers.

“As a producer, it is frustrating to watch other nations achieve preferential access to markets and secure a competitive advantage over U.S. corn and corn products,” Schott said. “NCGA strongly supports the pending FTAs with Korea, Colombia and Panama and we look forward to working with Congress to ensure swift passage.”

Source: NPPC, NCGA, uskoreafta.org.