Baucus Pushes Job-Creating Trade Deals through Committee
Committee Approval Clears Way for Final Passage, Presidents Signature Later this Week
Posted: Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Posted: Tuesday, October 11, 2011
(Washington, D.C.) - Montana's senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus ushered three job-creating Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) through his Senate Finance Committee today. With Baucus' committee's approval, the Colombia, Korea and Panama FTAs are ready for final passage and the President's signature later this week.
"Our trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea will create tens of thousands of American jobs. They will give our ranchers, farmers, workers, and businesses a competitive edge in three lucrative, fast-growing markets. They will increase U.S. exports by 13 billion dollars. And they will boost our GDP by more than $15 billion. They are what our economy needs right now," Baucus said at today's committee meeting.
Baucus also thanked Montana farmers for their support in getting the agreements approved.
"No one has worked harder to get these trade agreements approved than American farmers. Take Gordon Stoner, a wheat farmer from Outlook, Montana. In May, Gordon left his wheat farm in the middle of spring planting to testify before this Committee about the Colombia free trade agreement," Baucus said.
Baucus brought Stoner to testify before Congress on the importance of the Colombia agreement in May.
Baucus has consistently led the fight to pass the FTAs along with the worker retraining assistance he ushered through the Senate in September. The worker retraining program is expected to be signed into law alter this week along with the FTAs.
The Colombia FTA will provide particular benefits to Montana farmers and ranchers by immediately eliminating Colombia's duties on high-quality Montana beef, wheat and barley. Colombian tariffs currently render Montana malt barley non-competitive and make Montana wheat less competitive than wheat from other countries that have trade agreements with Colombia.
The Colombia FTA would also benefit Montana manufacturing firms by immediately eliminating duties on 80 percent of exports to Colombia, with the remainder eliminated over time. Colombian businesses can already sell the vast majority of their products in the United States without paying import duties under U.S. trade preference programs. The U.S.-Colombia FTA would level the playing field and give Montana businesses the same duty-free access to sell their goods in Colombia - including Montana businesses that participated in Baucus' trade mission in February.
The Korea FTA will phase out Korea's 40 percent tariff on U.S. beef imports over 15 years. But, as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees trade, Baucus insisted that the United States also take steps to expand beef market access in Korea for American farmers and ranchers. The commitment Baucus secured from the White House regarding beef includes two key elements:
1. The United States Department of Agriculture committed to increase funding that will be used to promote U.S. beef sales in Korea by $1 million in 2011 and to favorably review a request from the beef industry for an additional $10 million over the next five years. This additional support would come from USDA's existing budget and will not add a dime to the deficit.
2. The United States Trade Representative, Ron Kirk, sent Baucus a letter committing to continue working toward the goal of full market access for American beef and hold discussions with Korea once the FTA is implemented.
U.S. agricultural exports to Panama have doubled over the last five years. The Panama agreement will improve Montana's market access by immediately eliminating tariffs on Montana's high-quality beef and wheat. It will also ensure Montana exporters do not lose ground to their competitors from Canada and Europe, which have signed their own deals with Panama.
Contact: Kate Downen 406-224-5056/Jenny Donohue (202)224-2651/Kathy Weber 406-657-5915
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