An ad hoc coalition of agricultural and food organizations in a letter sent urged members of Congress to work with the Obama administration to remove any remaining impediments to a “rapid implementation” of the free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.
At the recent G20 Summit in Toronto, President Obama announced a November deadline for dealing with outstanding obstacles to the implementation of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to gain congressional approval of the deal in 2011.
That agreement and the FTAs with Colombia and Panama were finalized more than three years ago – and approved in those countries – but are awaiting congressional action.
The 42 groups that signed on to the letter pointed out that other countries are moving forward with FTAs with Colombia, Panama and South Korea to the detriment of the United States. Canada and Colombia, for example, recently approved a trade deal that gives duty-free access to a host of Canadian products going into the South American nation.
Over the past five years, Colombia has been the largest market in South America for U.S. agricultural products, with exports totaling $4.3 billion. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the U.S.-Colombia FTA would boost U.S. agricultural exports by more
than $815 million a year.
“But now that Canada has gained preferential access ahead of us,” the organizations said, “we are likely to be operating in catch-up mode for years to come.”
That already is occurring for some sectors. U.S feed grain producers, for example, have been particularly hard hit because of the preferential access their foreign competitors have in the Colombian market, with the U.S. market share falling sharply from 96 percent in 2007 to 38
percent in 2009.
“The fact is, literally hundreds of FTAs 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,” said the groups.