Importance of Free Trade Theme at USGC Conference
- Published on Friday, 19 February 2010 18:26
Without free trade agreements (FTAs) between the United States and markets in Latin America and Southeast Asia, the United States risks losing export competitiveness, warned U.S. Grains Council directors during the 7th International Marketing Conference. "One of the biggest threats facing the United States is the fact that pending FTAs with Colombia and Panama have not been ratified," said Kurt Shultz, USGC regional director in Panama.
Shultz and other Council directors delivered international program overviews during one of the conference’s general sessions. "Colombia is the largest market for U.S. corn in the region, and it holds great export potential due to its expanding livestock, swine and poultry industries," Shultz said. "But until a free trade agreement is ratified, the United States will be at a disadvantage as Brazilian and Argentine have a lower import tariff than U.S. corn."
Adel Yusopov, USGC regional director in Southeast Asia, echoed similar warnings, citing the ASEAN free trade agreement as an example. "The United States is long-overdue in recognizing the economic significance of Southeast Asia and its potential for U.S. agricultural exports," said Yusupov. "The region is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and is rapidly becoming a battle ground for economic influence. ASEAN has already ratified an FTA with China, and similar agreements with Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea are on the discussion tables. This means that high value agricultural products from Australia and New Zealand (beef, pork, dairy, etc.) would be entering ASEAN tariff-free. These changes will affect competitiveness of most agricultural exports into the region. The U.S. trade policy makers must act before the idea of a regional community without the U.S. becomes established in Asia. Whatever small steps the United States makes to increase free trade will pay-off significantly in the future."
While the Council will continue to work at creating avenues for U.S. exports into Latin America and Southeast Asia via its market creation and demand-building programs, it also supports the ratification of free trade agreements between the United States and other countries. Through free and open trade, a win-win situation can be generated for both the United States and the countries it trades with.
Written by Jodi Kiely, USGC Contributing Writer