The Administration has indicated its readiness to begin technical discussions as early as Thursday morning with key congressional staff on the draft implementing bills and draft Statements of Administrative Action for the pending trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama. This follows the transmission of a letter from U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees indicating that Colombia has taken the necessary steps to move to the next stage in the process.
Bill Donald, National Cattlemen's Beef Association president and Montana rancher, says the KORUS FTA could be the most impactful trade agreement the United States has entered into in decades. Donald said NCBA fully supports all members of Congress who understand the importance of free trade to the overall success of rural America and the entire U.S. economy.
The month of May is beef month and, according to Donald, this is an excellent way to celebrate the importance of safe and affordable beef to all consumers in the United States and abroad. When implemented, the KORUS FTA would reduce Korea’s current tariff on U.S. beef from 40% to zero over the next fifteen years. The U.S. beef industry would see $15 million in new tariff benefits in the first year alone.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman believes that recent statements by the U.S. Trade Representative and the Agriculture Department in regard to increasing exports of U.S. beef to Korea are the boost needed to help secure passage of the Korea free trade agreement. Farm Bureau credits Senator Max Baucus, D-Mont., for his commitment to this issue and his dedication in securing a breakthrough for greater expansion of U.S. beef in this market.
"On-going promotions of U.S. beef, coupled with the reductions of tariffs on U.S. products resulting from the FTA, will likely increase beef exports beyond the current rate of expansion," Stallman said. "In recent years, Korean consumers have significantly increased their consumption of U.S. beef. In the past year alone, our beef exports to Korea increased more than 140% from the previous year to total $518 million in sales."
Farm Bureau continues its commitment to passing all three outstanding FTAs with Korea, Colombia and Panama by the end of the summer. Stallman says they hope with the commitment of Senator Baucus to support the Korea agreement we can accomplish this goal.