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Trade deals would help U.S. pork producers

By Jennifer Carrico

TRADE—Korean ambassador to the U.S., Han Duk-soo discussed the importance of passing the U.S.-Korean free trade agreement during a luncheon at the World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa. (Journal photo by Jennifer Carrico.)

Pork producers have urged lawmakers to make free trade agreement deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea before Congress' August recess.

"It is imperative that the agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea be approved before Congress takes its month-long break," said Doug Wolf, NPPC president and a pork producer from Lancaster, Wis. "U.S. pork producers need new and expanded market access to remain competitive in the global marketplace. And the way to get that is through free trade agreements."

For the U.S. pork industry, the deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea would add more than $11 to the price producers receive for each hog and generate more than 10,000 jobs, according to Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes.

During the World Pork Expo in Des Moines the first part of June, Korean Ambassador Han Duk-soo said the pork industry is a key to the free trade agreement. He said an agreement between the U.S. and Korea needs to be worked out now in order for the exports from the U.S. to Korea to continue without problems.

"American farmers and ranchers will most likely benefit from the free trade agreement," he said.

Duk-soo said Korea is the size of the state of Georgia, but they do not have enough food to feed the population. The U.S. needs to be able to compete with the other countries that are importing food to Korea. That competitiveness will happen with a free trade agreement.

Hayes said this agreement will not only increase the number of U.S. jobs, but will also increase pig prices.

"The stakes for both our countries are high and the benefits for jobs and the economy are large," said Duk-soo. "Korea wouldn't be free and prosperous without the help of the U.S. Your country has stayed with us throughout the years. I hope there will be an agreement soon."

He said ratifying the FTA would send the message to the rest of the world that the U.S. is easy to work with on trade issues.

Duk-soo stressed for pork producers to tell their representatives in Congress that farmers and ranchers support the FTA.

"From every standpoint the agreement has a significant chance to make a difference," he said.

The Korean National Assembly consists of 299 members with 171 in favor of the free trade agreement as of the first part of June. Duk-soo said the Korean president is very supportive of the agreement and he hopes it will pass by the end of August at the latest.

"We need to implement these FTAs now," Wolf said, "because while these deals have languished for more than three years, our competitors have negotiated their own trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, and the United States has lost market share in those countries."

In fact, the European Union's trade agreement with South Korea went into effect July 1, and Colombia and Panama are nearing completion on deals with Canada.

Iowa State's Hayes has estimated that the U.S. pork industry would be out of all three markets in 10 years if the United States fails to implement the FTAs and Colombia, Panama and South Korea move forward on trade deals with other nations. The United States would lose thousands of jobs under such a scenario.

Exports are vital to the U.S. pork industry, which last year shipped nearly $4.8 billion of pork, an amount that added about $56 to the price producers received for each hog marketed.

Congressmen Tom Latham (R-IA) and Leonard Boswell (D-IA) both showed their support of the FTA with Korea while attending the World Pork Expo.

"We have had great progress with Korea and we want to continue to be able to make trade agreements with them and other countries around the world," said Boswell.

Jennifer Carrico can be reached by phone at 515-833-2120, or by email at jcarrico@hpj.com.

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