Coalition Urges Congressional Approval of U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement

A coalition of agricultural and food organizations and companies is calling on Congress to approve a pending free trade agreement between the United States and South Korea as soon as the White House sends it to Capitol Hill.

A coalition of agricultural and food organizations and companies is calling on Congress to approve a pending free trade agreement between the United States and South Korea as soon as the White House sends it to Capitol Hill.

In letters to all members of Congress, the 61-member coalition emphasized that other countries are moving forward with FTAs with South Korea to the detriment of the United States . For example, South Korea and the EU have approved an FTA that will enter into force July 1.

"Risks for U.S. agriculture –– and they are extremely serious –– arise if the KORUS FTA is not implemented," said the coalition in its letter. "If this agreement is rejected, we stand to relinquish our export sales to countries that have implemented their own FTAs with Korea ."

Once the KORUS FTA is implemented, more than 60 percent of existing import barriers will be removed immediately, an amount the coalition says would total nearly $3 billion in U.S. food and agricultural products. For this reason, says the letter, "the agreement is overwhelmingly good for American agriculture and presents no risks. It will create significant new and expanded market opportunities for U.S. exports but will not result in any appreciable increase in agricultural imports."

Among the 61 signing the letter were the American Farm Bureau Federation, Cargill, ConAgra, Smithfield Foods, Tyson Foods, the Commodity Markets Council, North American Equipment Dealers Association, Grocery Manufacturers Association, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture and most of the national commodity lobbying organizations.

Separately, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has launched what it said would be a nationwide effort to promote the job-creating benefits of the Korea FTA. "If we're going to meet the president's goal of doubling U.S. exports in the next five years, Congress needs to act on this trade agreement," said Tami Overby, the Chamber's vice president for Asia Affairs. Overby said stalling further on the pact would only put the U.S. at a greater competitive disadvantage.

The Korea FTA was signed by the Bush administration before the expiration of presidential trade promotion authority in 2007. The agreement achieved a significant step forward toward congressional ratification after USTR and the Korean trade ministry coming to a supplemental agreement on autos on the Korea FTA at the end of 2010 in an attempt to assuage congressional Democrats who opposed all three pending FTAs. The other two are with Colombia and Panama. 

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