Implementation of free trade agreements should happen now

Edmond Sun
By: Rep. Frank Lucas
August 10, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Delays in implementation of three pending free trade agreements between the U.S. and Colombia, Panama and South Korea are costing the United States in market share and access to foreign competitors. Recently, the White House insisted on Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) in return for implementing free trade agreements.

This further delays the creation of many jobs and economic growth in America. Trade agreements have already been negotiated, agreed to and signed by the United States; however, an up or down vote in Congress has yet to occur. Combining the three trade agreements would represent almost $3 billion in increased U.S. agricultural exports and would create tens of thousands of much-needed jobs in the U.S.

Enacting the trade agreement with Columbia would open the door for more than $900 million in previously untapped market access and strengthen relations with an important ally. In addition, U.S. agriculture exporters would benefit from duty-free treatment, which would account for more than half the value of our current trading relationship. If enacted, tariffs on $202 million in U.S. processed food product exports, which are currently as high as 20 percent, would be eliminated.

A free trade agreement with Panama would relieve farmers and ranchers of unnecessary tariffs. More than 99 percent of Panama’s exports are already duty-free; while more than 60 percent of our agricultural exports to Panama face tariffs and quotas. Currently, duties on U.S. export of poultry to Panama can range as high as 260 percent of value. Once executed, these issues and many other U.S. export barriers would be eliminated.

The Korean free trade agreement would grant immediate duty-free access for two-thirds of U.S. agriculture exports. Korea currently has average tariffs on agricultural products of 54 percent. Execution of this agreement would phase out tariffs and import quotas on most other products within 10 years. Also, American Agriculture stands to gain an additional $1.9 billion in new market access, which is a 30 percent increase from 2008.

Leadership in the U.S. Senate recently agreed to a process forward on these Free Trade Agreements and I urge them to follow through by passing them in September. The House remains ready to act on these agreements. The longer we wait to approve these important trade agreements, the more at risk U.S. agriculture producers are of losing out to foreign competitors. We cannot afford any more delays. It is time to move forward with these agreements and I look forward to working with colleagues to ensure this happens.

FRANK LUCAS represents Oklahoma’s 3rd Congressional District.
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