President Obama Signs Free Trade Agreements

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the following statement today on President Obama signing into law three trade agreements and workers' assistance expected to support tens-of-thousands of American jobs:

“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 one 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.”

American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman heralded President Barack Obama’s signing today of three bilateral free trade agreements between the United States and Korea, Colombia and Panama, but stressed that the job is not done until the pacts are implemented.

“This day was four years in the making and America’s farmers and ranchers are now one step closer to realizing $2.5 billion in projected new agriculture exports with the implementation of these free trade pacts,” Stallman says. “Farm Bureau thanks the president for signing the agreements today, but we cannot rest on our laurels. U.S. officials must not delay in implementing the accords so that the U.S. economy and U.S. farmers and ranchers can reap the benefits of free and open markets with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.”

Stallman says it is critical for the trade pacts to be implemented because of their projected ability to create American jobs. Farm Bureau estimates that these trade agreements will create more than 22,500 jobs when fully executed. “This is reason alone to take action now to implement them,” Stallman says. “Moreover, these accords will significantly improve our competitive positions in these three markets.”

Once implemented, it is estimated the Korea agreement will bring a $1.9 billion gain for U.S. agriculture exports and would eliminate two-thirds of tariffs immediately. The Colombia agreement will bring a $370 million gain in agriculture exports and will eliminate 80 percent of tariffs immediately while the Panama agreement will bring a $46 million gain in agriculture exports and will eliminate 50 percent of tariffs immediately.

“Implementation of these trade pacts will help give our economy a much needed shot it the arm.” Stallman says.

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