Speaking on the floor of the U.S. Senate Thursday, Senator Mike Johanns, R-Neb., addressed delays on getting trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama sent to Congress. The Senator said that the Administration seems to be moving the goal posts, suggesting continued delay. They're trying to hold these agreements up to force us to make spending increases that were contained in the ill-fated economic stimulus.
"What does this delay do to our reputation as a reliable negotiating partner?" Johanns asked. "Back where I come from in Nebraska, a lot of business is still done with a handshake. We trust our neighbors, because they are good people with good values. But if you make a deal with someone and shake on the deal, and they keep changing the terms or delaying the follow through, you tend to stop dealing with those people."
Johanns pointed out that according to the U.S. International Trade Commission since the Colombia agreement was initially signed, businesses and agricultural producers have paid nearly $3.5 billion in tariffs for goods exported and that an American job is supported for every $166,000 in exports.
The former Secretary of Agriculture also said that with the E.U.-South Korea and Canada-Colombia trade agreements going into effect on July 1, U.S. producers will be at a significant competitive disadvantage trading with those countries. Even without those free trade agreements in effect, the U.S. has lost ground to Canadian competitors. Between 2007 and 2010, the share of American wheat in the Colombian wheat market dropped from 70% to 46%, while Canada's market share grew from 24% to 33%.
Johanns made his comments while addressing the importance of World Trade Week and the urgency of the stalled free trade agreements. The Administration has said it would not seek Congressional approval of free trade agreements until Trade Adjustment Assistance stimulus expansions that expired on Feb. 12, 2011 were extended.