Trade agreements take step back with adjustment

by World Grain Staff
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WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — Members of the Obama administration said last week that the passage of three pending free trade agreements (FTA) must be linked with renewal of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), a program that helps American workers hurt by trade.

The assertions were just the latest setback for the agreements, which have languished for four years, said the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) on May 20.

National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling told reporters that the administration will not submit implementing legislation for the three agreements, negotiated with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, until there is a TAA deal, a message reiterated by U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.

While there was extensive talk of TAA at Congressional hearings called to review the pending FTAs, there was not the explicit tie between the two programs until these statements. The new requirement will almost certainly slow the effort to get the agreements completed this summer, since TAA provisions — and how to pay for them — could be controversial.

Wheat growers and other trade supporters within the agriculture industry continue to press members of the administration and Congress on the importance of the agreements to U.S. farmers.

The most important of the three agreements for wheat growers is that with Colombia. U.S. Wheat Associates has estimated that if the agreement is not in place before a Canada-Colombia FTA is enacted this summer, U.S. producers could lose market share worth $100 million per year.

NAWG Chief Executive Officer Dana Peterson is scheduled to participate in a press conference on May 24 to highlight the importance of the pending FTAs.

The press conference is being hosted by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and moderated by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas.

Other organizations with representatives scheduled to be at the conference include the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers Association and National Pork Producers Council.
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