U.S. Senate Finance Committee to hold 'mock' markup for FTAs

by World Grain Staff
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WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — The U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus announced on June 29 that the Committee will hold a “mock” markup of the draft implementing bills for the South Korea, Colombia, and Panama Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) that includes an extension of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) on June 30. The TAA provisions in the legislation unveiled on June 28 reflect bipartisan, bicameral agreement on the underlying substance following discussions that included House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp and the White House.

The proposal would extend Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) through December 31, 2013. Committee mock markups are the standard way Congress weighs in on the Administration’s FTAs negotiated under fast-track authority, which prohibits amendments to the final implementing bills.

“These free trade agreements, together with Trade Adjustment Assistance, will boost our economy by billions of dollars and create new jobs and opportunities here at home. This proposal opens lucrative new markets to American ranchers, farmers and small businesses while ensuring U.S. workers have all the help they need to adapt and thrive in the 21st century global economy,” said Baucus. “The road to this point has not been an easy one, but our economy needs these jobs and these opportunities. That’s why we have continued to fight to pass these job-creating agreements and restore this vital worker assistance program. We think this package can get the support needed to become law. American workers and our economy can’t afford for us to wait any longer to move forward.”

Both the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and American Soybean Association (ASA) issued releases applauding this measure.

The implementing bills approve the South Korea, Colombia and Panama FTAs and establish the necessary conditions for their entry into force.

“NCGA is greatly encouraged by the movement on the pending FTAs,” NCGA President Bart Schott said. “The United States is the largest corn producer and exporter in the world and developing new markets for our country’s agricultural products will help our sector lead the nation in economic growth and international competiveness.”

Last year, the United States exported 50.4 million tonnes of corn worldwide. Corn co-products such as distillers grains also represent a growing export market for domestic producers.

“As a producer, it is frustrating to watch other nations achieve preferential access to markets and secure a competitive advantage over U.S. corn and corn products,” Schott said. “NCGA strongly supports the pending FTAs with Korea, Colombia and Panama and we look forward to working with Congress to ensure swift passage.”

In addition, the Committee said the proposal:

• Puts U.S. exporters on a level playing field in lucrative new markets;

• Restores TAA benefits to workers in service industries as well as manufacturing industries;

• Provides TAA benefits to workers whose jobs are off-shored to any country;

• Authorizes funding for TAA training and makes health care available and affordable for covered workers;

• Assists trade-affected services firms prevent layoffs and become more competitive;

• Helps farmers, ranchers, and fishermen become more globally competitive; and

• Extends the expired Generalized System of Preferences and Andean Trade Preference Act both retroactively and through July 31, 2013.

"This is a critical step in the right direction," said ASA President Alan Kemper, a soybean farmer from Lafayette, Indiana, U.S. "Now that an agreement on Trade Adjustment Assistance has been reached, we call on Congress and the Administration to quickly advance these trade agreements in order to boost our economy."

ASA said these three agreements contain significant export gains for U.S. agriculture that will only be realized by passage and implementation. Conversely, inaction has proven to result in loss of U.S. market share and forfeiture of economic growth. The U.S. government’s inability to move these agreements only benefits our foreign competitors and harms U.S. agriculture.

"ASA urges that the Senate support and pass these agreements now and take full advantage of the opportunity they provide for America’s economic growth," Kemper said.

The full texts of the implementing bills are available on the Finance Committee’s legislation page.
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