FTA Negotiations Are Up Against the Clock

Negotiators have less than two weeks until competitor deals go into effect.

Published on: Jun 22, 2011

Talks continue to reach a White House-GOP deal on free trade agreements as a critical July 1 date nears. That's when U.S. competitors Canada and the European Union implement their own trade deals with some of the same trading partners. Less than two weeks before Canada implements a trade agreement with Colombia and the EU with Korea there is still no breakthrough on a key issue blocking movement on deals between the U.S. and the same countries as well as the agreement with Panama.

"I don't believe anything has fundamentally has changed," American Farm Bureau Federation trade specialist Dave Salmonsen said. "The Administration has directly linked an agreement to renew the Trade Adjustment Assistance program with their decision to send up the three FTA's to Congress for their consideration."

Trade Adjustment Assistance expired months ago and Republicans have opposed renewing the program, which cost about $1 billion when it lapsed. More than 40 Senate Democrats urged President Obama last week to stick to his guns on TAA.

While a deal eludes the White House and Republicans, Salmonsen says U.S. farmers are losing billions, earlier to Argentina selling wheat to Colombia and now Canada.

"They'll be a major competitor and we may lose even more because we'll be paying that tariff and the Canadians won't," Salmonsen said. "Same thing with Korea and the European Union; July 1 they have a deal with them that's suppose to go into effect. The same kind of products we want to sell to Korea, higher value processed food products, meats and such that we want to sell to Korea."

Salmonsen says even if a deal was reached between Congress and the White House, final action could take as long as 90 days under existing trade deal rules. Farm Bureau is confident the votes are there for passage, but time is quickly running out.

Meantime almost 30 U.S. Senators addressed another trade issue in a letter to the Obama Administration, urging them to press Russian to end trade barriers to U.S. pork and restore quotas halved from an earlier agreement.

"Our plant inspection system is equivalent to their plant inspection system and they don't need to do plant by plant inspections," said National Pork Producers Council spokesman Dave Warner. "We want those commitments before the U.S. agrees to allow Russia to accede to the WTO."

The Senators agree and want Russia, the fifth largest importer of U.S. pork, to stop delisting U.S. plants on unscientific grounds and accept U.S. inspection standards as equivalent to its own.