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Agricultural News

When Will the President Send the Free Trade Deals to Congress?

Fri, 09 Sep 2011 11:13:23 CDT

When Will the President Send the Free Trade Deals to Congress? With Congress back from the fall recess, a looming question is becoming louder: when will three long-pending free trade agreements see action?

The agreements - negotiated with Colombia, Panama and South Korea as long as four years ago - generally enjoy bipartisan support, even while stuck in the equivalent of political muck.

The latest concerns revolve around trade adjustment assistance (TAA), which aids U.S. workers hurt by trade agreements. The Obama Administration and, thus, Congressional Democrats have insisted on simultaneous passage of TAA and the FTAs, which Republicans disagree with.

The House of Representatives took a very initial first step Wednesday toward a potential path forward by passing, via a voice vote and under suspension of the rules, legislation to renew the generalized system of preferences (GSP), which is a program designed to promote economic growth in developing countries through reduced duties.

GSP is considered non-controversial, and the bill is seen as a vehicle for TAA once it gets to the Senate.

During the recess, leaders in both parties urged quick passage of the agreements to help stimulate economic activity and create jobs, and there were some positive political rumblings toward that end.

President Barack Obama called for the agreements'' passage in his address Thursday evening to a joint session of Congress, though he did not mention that the next formal step is for his Administration to submit agreement language to the legislative branch.

After the speech, US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told Chris Clayton with DTN that he hopes Congress passes the three trade deals this month- and says that passage would be great news for agriculture.

Wheat growers and other agricultural producers continue to press for immediate enactment of the agreements, particularly as other countries implement their own free trade measures.

As of mid-August, Canada's FTA with Colombia is in place, which U.S. Wheat Associates has estimated will cost U.S. wheat producers upwards of $100 million in lost sales each year - losses that only hurt a national economy with few bright spots and agricultural producers facing a variety of weather-related disasters. Click here for more on impact the FTAs have on the US wheat industry.

Also calling on the President to move the FTAs to Congress quickly is Bill Donald, President of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. "If the president is serious about creating jobs, we expect the three trade agreements to be sent to Congress this week. There is absolutely no conceivable reason to delay these job-generating trade pacts any longer," said Donald. "Since President Obama took office, these trade agreements have been collecting dust on his desk. A lot of finger pointing is going on while our competitor's capitalize on our inability to act on these trade deals." Click here for a briefing paper from the NCBA website on the pending trade deals with Columbia, Panama and South Korea.

Earlier in the week- we featured Keith Miller, Chairman of the US Meat Export Federation and his take on the importance of the FTAs on continued success of selling pork and beef into the South Korean market- click here for that report featuring Kansas stocker cattle producer Keith Miller.



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