Immediately following President Obama's vow on Wednesday to push for passage of pending trade agreements, IDFA and more than 40 other trade organizations urged Congressional leaders to work quickly with the administration to implement free trade agreements with Colombia, Korea and Panama. In a joint letter to House and Senate leaders, the groups expressed continued concern that these countries are developing other bilateral agreements that will put United States exports at a competitive disadvantage.
"Our organizations are grateful to the president for his new initiative, and we hope that you will work closely with him to ensure timely action on implementing legislation," the letter stated. "The fact is, literally hundreds of free trade agreements are being negotiated around the world, and global trade liberalization is taking place. But it is taking place with the United States standing on the sidelines."
During the G-20 Summit in Toronto, President Obama announced his intention to set a November deadline for removing outstanding obstacles to the implementation of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which was concluded by the Bush administration in 2007. Agreements with Colombia and Panama have been awaiting Congressional action for more than three years.
Valuable Markets for U.S. Agricultural Exports
"One of our greatest fears about the continued delay in implementing the agreements is now being realized. On June 21, the Canadian Senate voted to implement a free trade agreement with Colombia, following approval by Canada's House of Commons on June 15," the letter stated. "So not only have we lost two or three years of benefits of duty-free or reduced-tariff access to the Colombian market under a U.S. FTA, we now face the certainty that Canada's producers will instead reap those benefits."
Over the past five years, Colombia has been the largest market in South America for U.S. agricultural exports, with exports totaling $4.3 billion. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the U.S.-Colombia FTA would bring gains of more than $815 million per year to U.S. agricultural exports.
The Korean market is the fifth largest for U.S. agricultural exports, valued at $3.9 billion in 2009. The U.S.-Korea FTA would expand exports in a wide range of commodities and result in $1.8 billion in additional sales, a 46-percent increase, according to American Farm Bureau Federation estimates.
The following organizations were co-signers with IDFA:
- American Farm Bureau Federation
- American Feed Industry Association
- American Frozen Food Institute
- American Meat Institute
- American Potato Trade Alliance
- American Soybean Association
- California Table Grape Commission
- Commodity Markets Council
- Corn Refiners Association
- Distilled Spirits Council of the United States
- National Association of Wheat Growers
- National Barley Growers Association
- National Cattlemen's Beef Association
- National Confectioners Association
- National Corn Growers Association
- National Council of Farmer Cooperatives
- National Grain and Feed Association
- National Grange
- National Milk Producers Federation
- National Oilseed Processors Association
- National Pork Producers Council
- National Potato Council
- National Renderers Association
- National Sorghum Producers
- National Turkey Federation
- North American Equipment Dealers Association
- North American Export Grain Association
- Northwest Horticultural Council
- Pet Food Institute
- Produce Marketing Association
- Sweetener Users Association
- U.S. Apple Association
- U.S. Dairy Export Council
- U.S. Grains Council
- U.S. Wheat Associates
- United Egg Association
- United Egg Producers
- USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council
- USA Poultry & Egg Export Council
- Washington State Potato Commission
- Western Growers Association
Read the letter here.