President Obama called the passage of trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, as well as Trade Adjustment Assistance, a major win for American workers and businesses. He said Wednesday night's votes will significantly boost exports, support tens of thousands of American jobs and protect labor rights, the environment and intellectual property. He noted farmers and ranchers will be able to compete and win in new markets - and expressed that he looked forward to signing the agreements, which will help with his goal of doubling American exports.
Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says that for agriculture the agreements mean more than $2.3 billion in additional exports and support of nearly 20,000 jobs here at home. He said the passage also levels the playing field and secures markets for American farmers, ranchers, growers and producers. Vilsack added that passage of the three agreements will contribute to a positive U.S. trade balance, create jobs and provide new income opportunities for ag producers, small businesses and rural communities.
House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas, R-Okla., says the ag industry is going to benefit from significant, new market access as a result of the passage of the three trade deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. He points out that according to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the U.S. will see $370 million more in farm exports to Colombia annually as a result of the FTA with that country. The agreement with Korea, once fully implemented, could boost increased farm exports by $1.9 billion. Lucas says the agreements put us in a better position to compete globally, expand U.S. exports, create jobs and bring much-needed income to communities across rural America. Pointing out just how long America's ag producers were waiting to see these agreements passed Senator Mike Johanns, R-Neb., who was the Secretary of Agriculture when these deals were originally negotiated, said the ratification of the FTAs not only means expanding markets for producers but hundreds of thousands of new American jobs.
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association and National Pork Producers Council were quick to respond to the passage. NPPC called it one of the greatest victories ever for the U.S. pork industry. According to Iowa State University Economist Dermot Hayes the three deals, when fully implemented, will generate nearly $772 million in new pork sales, add to the price producers receive for each hog marketed and create more than 10,000 pork industry jobs. NCBA President Bill Donald says cattlemen also have a lot to gain when the agreements are fully implemented. He says the bext example is found in the agreement with Korea. The U.S. International Trade commission says annual exports of U.S. beef to South Korea are expected to increase as much as $1.8 billion. Implementation would phase out South Korea's 40% tariff on beef imports over 15 years. Both groups are calling on the President to sign all three agreements without delay.
Also praising the action by Congress were the National Corn Growers Association, National Milk Producers Federation and U.S. Dairy Export Council.
"The FTAs will expand U.S. dairy exports and, when fully implemented, will create thousands of export-supporting jobs in the dairy industry," said Tom Suber, president, USDEC. "We hope that all necessary steps can be taken in the coming months by all four countries so that the agreements may enter into force at the beginning of the year and benefits to the U.S. economy can begin to be felt immediately."
NCGA President Garry Niemeyer released a statement that NCGA was pleased the Senate had quickly followed the House vote passing the trade agreements and that the bipartisan vote shows Congress understands the importance of these deals to rural America.
"The U.S. dairy industry stands ready to assist in any way possible to help ensure that the FTAs take effect as soon as possible," said NMPF President and CEO Jerry Kozak. "Our producers are excited about the new export opportunities that will be realized once the agreements take effect, especially the trade pact with South Korea. The export gain for dairy from the Korea FTA in the first few years after implementation will be approximately $380 million per year, on average, and the gains from the Colombia and Panama FTAs will add another $50 million annually."