The long-time challenge of getting three key free trade agreements signed has been answered with today's signing by President Obama of the legislation making them a reality. The agreements, which had been held back by the Obama administration at first over measures to get compensation and training for workers displaced by global trade eventually sailed through the House and Senate.
The official signing of the legislation sets in motion more open markets each way, which will benefit agriculture. Opponents say the agreements will hurt job prospects at a time when jobs are scarce.
In responding to news the agreements were signed, Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack issued the following statement:
"Today, President Obama signed a major piece of his jobs agenda into law: new trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. These agreements will support tens of thousands of jobs here at home, put unemployed Americans back to work, and open new opportunities for American businesses. For America's farmers and ranchers, the trade agreements are an opportunity to strengthen U.S. agriculture, already a bright spot in our economy.
"Farm exports help support more than 1 million American jobs. This year and next, U.S. agricultural exports are on track to reach new highs, leading to a trade surplus of over $42 billion, eight times greater than five years ago. When implemented, these three agreements will increase farm exports by an additional $2.3 billion—supporting nearly 20,000 American jobs—by eliminating tariffs, removing barriers to trade and leveling the playing field for U.S. producers.
"Overall, these agreements are a win for the American economy—they mean higher incomes for farmers and ranchers, more opportunities for small businesses owners, and jobs for folks who package, ship, and market agricultural products."
In addition to signing the FTAs, Obama also signed into law the renewal of the Trade Adjustment Assistance program - which had originally been a sticking point on the agreements.